Missing police K-9 mistaken for coyote, shot to death

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DENTON, Texas -- The search is over for a missing member of the Denton County Sheriff's Office. Deputies solved the mystery Friday with a tragic discovery.

"Everybody's just saddened by it," said Sheriff Will Travis, Denton County. "I called a meeting today with all 600 of our employees and filled them in on it, and everybody was very, very sad to hear the news today."

Chico was was Denton County's only K-9. On December 20, he escaped his handler's backyard. The newly-elected sheriff made a public plea for the missing K-9 within days after taking office. It's uncertain why no one from the previous administration asked for the public's assistance after Chico disappeared on December 20.

Turns out, the highly trained drug dog was mistaken for a coyote the following day.

A homeowner who lives nearby shot and killed Chico, then buried him in a rural area on Mallard Point Drive in Wylie near where his handler lived. The man who killed Chico said he mistook the four-year-old Belgian Malinois for a predator.

"He was very remorseful when he shot this dog," Sheriff Travis said. "He was getting into his livestock. Due to him running wild, he thought he was something other type of animal."

When Chico escaped, he was not wearing his vest and badge. In the past, though, he had used them to make multi-million dollar drug busts.

Chico's funeral is going to be held outside the Denton County Sheriff's Office next Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. It's a police funeral with full honors and a 21-gun salute. Sheriff Travis said he plans to take money from drug seizures that Chico helped find in order to buy the department another K-9 in the coming months.

Chico was only four, but had been a police dog in Denton County almost his entire life. His remains are currently at a veterinary clinic where they will undergo a necropsy.

But the sheriff said this appears to be a mistake, and the homeowner who shot the dog will not face charges.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com