K9 Officer Kitt -- of the Braintree Police Department -- was killed in the line of duty on Friday, when he was brought in to help officers responding to investigate a domestic dispute at the Braintree Village apartment complex.
Investigators say Andrew Homen ambushed the officers and Kitt in the woods off Commercial Street. The firefight ended with Kitt and the suspect dead, and Officers Matt Donoghue and Bill Cushing -- Kitt's handler -- shot multiple times.
Braintree police said Kitt "went out a lion, protecting your dad and his partners." Kitt was a 12-year member of the force, spending all of that time with Cushing.
"We will forever miss you and always remember the good times we shared with you buddy," the department added.
"This is a very difficult time, to be serving as mayor to have two of your own go down, and to have the loss of Kitt, our K9 officer," Kokoros said at a press conference with Braintree police on Saturday. "I hope everyone takes a moment to say a prayer for our two officers as they heal and especially Kitt who we lost in the line of duty, who is truly a hero."
There's also a growing memorial outside Braintree police headquarters where people left flower bouquets, a giant stuffed animal dog, thank you notes and candles.
Police Chief Mark Dubois said Saturday they are very thankful for the outpouring of support within the community of Braintree and beyond, noting there had been all kinds of condolences for Kitt.
Dubois also said there would be some kind of ceremony for Kitt once Cushing is discharged from the hospital, though it's not yet known when that will be.
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Braintree Deputy Chief Tim Cohoon said Saturday the entire incident was very traumatic, and that it was multiplied by the loss of Kitt.
"It's a huge loss," he said.
Cohoon also spoke about how significant the relationship is between a handler and a K9.
"Anybody who has a pet can appreciate their relationship. And it's no disrespect to anybody with their pet, but a handler and their dog are together 24/7, sometimes 365 days a year, many times they don’t vacation because they stay with the dogs and they work constantly together," Cohoon said. "The dog's main focus in life is protection of the handler, and to please the handler, so it's very difficult in these circumstances, and any circumstances, when the handler and the dog separate."
Cohoon acknowledged it's going to be a long road ahead for Cushing but said he would have support as he moves forward without Kitt. He also recognized that the situation could have ended even more tragically than it did.
"It’s a tough circumstance but it definitely could have been a lot worse so we're fortunate in the outcome and extremely saddened by the loss of Kitt," he said.
To honor Kitt and his service, several officers stayed with Kitt until it was time to bring him out of the crime scene. The beloved K9 officer was carried out of the woods on Friday by local, state and federal law enforcement, Cohoon said while noting that Cushing was unfortunately not able to be present given that he was shot and taken to a hospital for treatment.
"What we wanted to do was give him the recognition he deserved and we were able to put together a team to carry him out," Cohoon said of Kitt.
Cohoon said he wasn't sure exactly when Cushing found out Kitt had died, but he did say that Cushing "had a pretty good idea when he left the scene."
Cushing remained hospitalized Saturday, though he is expected to make a full recovery. Meanwhile, Donoghue was released from Boston Medical Center on Saturday afternoon.