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A blue cross is displayed in honor of Kali the K-9 who was killed following a Saturday night collision at Route 251 and 36th Street (Wenzel Road) in Peru.
NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Services planned to honor fallen police dog
Kali’s service to Peru will be recognized at a “celebration of service” to be held Thursday at Peru City Hall. Chief Doug Bernabei said an open house would be 5-7 p.m. Thursday in the community room at Peru City Hall, 1901 Fourth St., Peru. Members of the public and other law enforcement officers are encouraged to attend and honor Kali’s service. Kali, a female Belgian Malinois, was added to the Peru force in fall 2012 at a cost of about $12,000. Bernabei said Kali was fully trained for narcotics detection, searching and tracking. Kali is the first Peru police dog killed in the line of duty. Bernabei noted the public support has been overwhelming and deeply appreciated by all officers at Peru Police Department. “We’ve received thousands of Facebook postings, calls and e-mails,” he said. “This has touched a lot of people and we appreciate the support.”
The Peru police K-9 handler who was injured responding to an armed robbery Saturday — during which the police dog was killed — is OK and has been medically cleared for duty. Officer Art Smith was treated and released from Illinois Valley Community Hospital, Peru, following a traffic crash reported shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday on Route 251 at 36th Street. The K-9 officer, Kali, was ejected during the collision and then euthanized for its injuries. Peru police chief Doug Bernabei said in an update this morning that Smith, and 11-year veteran, could resume his duties Wednesday. “He’s obviously very sore with bumps and bruises but he’s been cleared to return to work,” Bernabei said. Meanwhile, Bernabei said the crime scene at the Verizon store — to which Smith was responding when the accident occurred — has been processed and the collected information is being shared with other police agencies. Bernabei previously said investigators retrieved “good physical evidence” from the scene as well as useful video surveillance. Bernabei said he’s confident the two perpetrators, black males in their 20s, were not from North Central Illinois and he therefore is not issuing a local advisory seeking information. Instead, he’s reaching out to a broad cross-section of agencies to share information about similar holdups and perpetrators bearing the same description. The suspects, at least one of whom brandished a firearm, entered the Verizon store located east of Route 251 near Staples and then left with unspecified cash or merchandise in a bluish-green Chrysler minivan. Bernabei called the holdup “an especially dangerous and brazen crime,” and that evidence so far points to an organized crime ring spanning not just North Central Illinois but several Midwestern states. “It was a very, very terrorizing event for the people inside the store,” Bernabei said. “From what we know these are very dangerous criminals.” While en route to the scene, Smith was injured and Kali killed in a two-vehicle crash in which both motorists were held blameless. According to an accident report completed by state police — Peru turned over the crash investigation to state as a matter of policy — Smith lawfully entered the intersection through a red light with his lights and sirens activated. An oncoming motorist, Randy R. Koehler of Peru, drove a 2012 Volkswagen Passat westbound on 36th Street through a green light and his view of Smith’s cruiser was obstructed. The vehicles collided and sent Smith’s squad car into the southbound lanes. Kali was ejected and sustained fatal injuries. A memorial service is planned. (See sidebar) Additionally, crash debris was sent flying into the driver’s side rear tire of a vehicle stopped on Route 251 southbound, causing minor damage. Neither Smith nor Koehler will be charged in connection with the crash. The robbery suspects face felony charges in connection with Kali’s death, however, under the accountability theory. Under the law, violent offenders are deemed responsible for any injuries or deaths to occur as a result, directly or indirectly, of their criminal conduct. Bernabei and La Salle County state’s attorney Brian Towne indicated the suspects would likely face charges of armed robbery (base sentencing range: 6-30 years in prison with the possibility of firearm enhancements) as well as a charge of causing the death of a police service animal, a Class 3 felony carrying 2-5 years in prison.