RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A K-9 with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office was accidentally shot and killed in the line of duty by a Knightdale police officer, according to the Knightdale Police Department.

K-9 Santos and his handler were assisting Knightdale police around 12:30 a.m., the Wake County Sheriff’s Office said.

The search for the suspect started after Knightdale officers made a traffic stop on North Smithfield Road near the Carrington Woods subdivision.

The suspect, Ravon Leshawn Williams, 21, of Knightdale, a passenger in the vehicle, fled on foot, police said. Officers then set up a perimeter and requested assistance from the sheriff’s office.

During the search, a Knightdale officer unintentionally fired their weapon, hitting the deputy’s K-9, according to police.

Williams was arrested shortly after 1 p.m. and charged with resisting a public officer, giving fictitious information to officers, and having no operator’s license. He was given a $2,750 secured bond and has a court appearance Friday afternoon.

Santos was rushed to the emergency clinic at N.C. State University’s Veterinary Hospital, where he died.

The sheriff’s office said Santos was “skilled in tracking and protecting his handler with a fierce determination.”

“He gave his life to ensure the safety of our deputies and the residents of Wake County,” said the sheriff’s office in a news release. “We thank him for his loyalty and service.”

Wake County Sheriff’s Office K9 Santos (Wake County Sheriff’s Office)

Santos joined the sheriff’s office in 2016, making him the longest-serving K-9, according to the sheriff’s office.

In an afternoon news conference, Knightdale Police Chief Lawrence Capps spoke about the rules during a chase.

“It is policy for officers when they are tracking, particularly in a dark area looking for a suspect, to have their weapon drawn, to have a weapon available, particularly as they’re following the K-9 handler because the K-9 handler’s attention is focused on the animal,” Capps said.

“You never want a critical incident to serve as a teachable moment. But I think that if we fail to try to glean valuable lessons from things like this, than we are doing our officers a disservice and we’re doing our communities a disservice.”

This loss comes during a month focused on remembering the law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Our K9s are part of our law enforcement family, and we mourn the loss of K-9 Santos. The well-being of the residents of Wake County and our deputies is our top priority.

Wake County Sheriff’s Office

“We are truly heartbroken over this tragedy,” said Chief Capps. “All law enforcement officers understand the strong and undeniably special bond that exists between handlers and their K9 partners. The involved officer is very distraught, so I can only imagine the deep swell of grief our friends in the sheriff’s office must be feeling. We extended our sincerest apologies and deepest sympathies.”

Chief Capps said the department has been in constant communication with command staff at the Wake County Sheriff’s Office since the incident. Police launched an investigation into the officer’s actions.

“The fact that this is a day that none of us look forward to,” Wake County Sheriff Willie Rowe said at a news conference. “These type of situations always touch that never healing wound that exists because that experience is that our officers and the families experience on a daily basis.”

Watch the full news conference below.

Early Friday afternoon, Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Shinica Thomas released the following statement on the death of K-9 Santos:

On behalf of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office at the passing of Canine Deputy Santos this morning in the line of duty. He was so much more than a dog; he was the Sheriff’s Office’s longest-serving K9 officer, a beloved partner to his handler, and a dedicated member of the canine unit who trained for and assisted with search operations. Our hearts go out to the law enforcement community today, and our thoughts and prayers are with them in the days ahead as they grieve this tragic loss.

The investigation is ongoing and no other information was released.