CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The community is paying respects to Charleston PD K-9 Axel, who was killed in the line of duty Saturday night while police responded to a call.

Officers say the suspect, Samuel Ranson, ran from a house and toward the woods. Axel tried to apprehend him.

That’s when police say Ranson pulled out a gun and shot and killed Axel.

Police say officers returned fire and shot and killed Ranson.

On Thursday, law enforcement officers, first responders, dispatchers and members of the public came out to honor Axel and show their support for his handler and family.

“They are faithful and loyal to their companion and their family,” said Robert Wagner.

Wagner works at the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association. He came to the service to honor Axel and brought along Cookie, a dog he is currently training.

“I respect the fact that it was a police officer and I’m kind of choked up about it,” Wagner said.

During the memorial, officers spoke about Axel’s sacrifice to save his partner Patrolman Josh Clendenin and also Patrolman Childress.

“It is said that if having a soul means to feel love, loyalty and gratitude then dogs are much better off than a lot of humans,” said Deputy Chief Scott Dempsey during the memorial. “To Josh and his family, we are truly sorry for your grief and for your loss. But know this, everybody in this Grand Hall, everybody watching is right beside you every step of the way.”

Since the incident, Charleston Police have reiterated what a vital role K-9 officers play in the work they do. Many have also talked about the bond that is developed between K-9 officers and their handlers.

Charleston Police K-9 Axel and Patrolman Clendenin. (Photo Courtesy: Charleston PD)

“Law enforcement is a righteous and noble profession and we care so deeply for our service animals,” said Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt. “There is a bond between K-9 handler and K-9 that is unlike any other.”

Animal lovers from across the region were moved by Axel’s loyalty and commitment.

“He gave his life to save two men. He did what he could do. He gave it all. He gave his all, that’s what he did,” said animal lover Roger Porter.