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A Lake County Sheriff's Department dog shot last year in the line of duty is going home.

The Lake County Board of Commissioners voted last week to turn over Blade, an 8-year-old Dutch shepherd, and two other retiring K-9s to police officers who promised to care for them.

Since the dogs were originally purchased by the Sheriff's Department, commissioners went through the formality of selling them for $1 apiece.

Sheriff Oscar Martinez said Blade served on the county police force since 2013 as a tracking and apprehension dog for the county police gang enforcement unit until he was shot and injured Jan. 18 in the line of duty.

Police said Blade and his handler were pursuing Marquis Thomas, 19, of Merrillville, when police stopped a car in which Thomas was a passenger in the 700 block of East 42nd Avenue in Gary's Glen Park section for a traffic violation.

Police said Thomas and a county police officer exchanged gunfire during a foot pursuit. Thomas wounded Blade before he was fatally shot.

Blade survived two surgeries to remove bullet fragments from his jaw and neck and repair his broken jaw, but the permanent damage was too extensive for Blade to return to active duty.

The sheriff asked commissioners to give Blade to county police Sgt. Christopher Vukin.

Officer Ronald Taylor will keep K-9 Bickel, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois that served since 2009 in narcotics detection and general tracking duties. Cpl. William Poe can have K-9 Zombie, an 8-year-old shepherd who had a tour of duty since 2013 as a bomb detection and tracking dog.

The sheriff thanked commissioners for releasing the K-9s. "The dog builds a bond with the handler and becomes part of the family," he said.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.