The Metropolitan Police Department buried one of its own last week, a member of the force perhaps best remembered for capturing one of the "robber joggers," the celebrated Southeast Washington holdup men.
Forty police officers -- some from as far away as Prince William County -- came to honor Char 1, a reddish black German shepherd, buried in Aspen Hill Pet Cemetery in Wheaton (Md.).
As an officer read a poem written in the dog's memory, several of the K-9 officers, dressed in blue-on-blue uniforms, bowed their heads in respect, while their dogs stood at attention by their sides. One restless German shepherd whimpered mournfully and a caged peacock, a pet on the grounds, let out a shrill cry.
Sgt. Sidney Michelin, the department's K-9 trainer, eulogized Char, recounting highlights of his 2 1/2 years with the force.Michelin recalled the day in August 1978, when Char saved his officer "partner" from being stabbed with a scissors, nabbing one of the "robber joggers" in the process.
Char's uncanny intelligence earned him regional and national training awards -- and the highest performance scores in the history of the K-9 Corps.
But his aggressiveness also led to his death, ironically at the hand of a plain-clothes police officer. Searching a wooded area along Suitland Parkway for an armed robbery suspect, the dog went after the first man he saw with a gun. Shots rang out.
"When I saw (the plainclothes police officer), he had already shot (Char) twice," Char's partner, Officer Theodore C. Beagle recalled. "I saw him shoot the third time. I think I yelled, 'Don't shoot my dog!' but it was too late.
"The first shot was mortal, I guess. He couldn't get up. He just lay there on the grass."
Officers helped Beagle pick up the 95-pound dog and place him on the back seat of the police cruiser. He was rushed to Chillum Animal Medical Center on Riggs Road NE.
Beagle said the dog was dead when they arrived -- the sixth District police dog to be killed in the line of duty in the 20 years of the K-9 Corps.
Char was the Beagle family's pet, remembered as an active, affectionate dog who'd romp and play frisbee with the household's four daughters.
He was named after the acronym for Children of the American Revolution, an affiliate of the Daughters of the American Revolution which donated the money to buy the dog for the police force.
He was Beagle's fourth police dog in 14 years, but the first to die on the job. "You see something like that -- it's just like watching your partner being shot. It's a bad experience, but it's one of the things that happens," Beagle said.
The Beagles accepted a memorial plaque, inscribed to "Char and Teddy Beagle," from the corps during the 30-minute ceremony, during which a copper urn containing Char's ashes was lowered into the ground. Michelin said the officers plan to place a headstone in the shape of the police department medallion over the dog's grave.
The eight-acre pet cemetery is the final resting spot for 22 police dogs from the District and several other area jurisdictions, as well as cats, horses and birds. Martha Nash, the cemetery's owner, said she donated the plots to the police department. The cremation and services were paid for by the K-9 officers.