Cass County K-9 ‘Champ’ back on duty after being stabbed in neck by Harrisonville suspect

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. -- A Cass County Sheriff's K-9 was back on the job Monday after being stabbed in the neck by a suspect.

Ironically, the first person "Champ" tried to track down Monday was a stabbing suspect.

It was a different suspect than the teen he captured in December. But thanks to lax Missouri laws protecting police animals, that teen accused of stabbing him is also on the run again.

"You hear about it happening to other dogs in big cities, but it’s not anything I ever would have thought would have happened here," Cass County Deputy Steve Valentich said.

Valentich was helping Harrisonville police look for a thief near a Walmart last month when he said he spotted the suspect about 80 yards away.

“I gave him several orders to stop," Valentich said. "He turned around, saw the dog and took off running."

Champ took down the suspect, identified as 17-year-old Zachary Wilbanks, but Valentich heard Champ yelp in the process.

“My heart sunk when I saw that he had been injured," Valentich said. "I looked closer at it, and it appeared to be a stab wound."

Perhaps the only thing more shocking to Valentich than the fact someone would harm his K-9 partner of four years was when Valentich learned the suspect faced only a maximum of 15 days jail.

“I couldn’t believe it," he said. "It was no different than not returning a library book."

Champ receives medical care for a stab wound he sustained in pursuit of a suspect. Photo courtesy of Cass Co. Sheriff's Department.

Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber urged people to contact state legislators as soon as he learned of what he felt was a disparity in the law.

St. Louis-area lawmaker Robert Cornejo contacted Fox 4, saying he was filing a bill to increase the maximum sentence to a year in jail. House Bill 1649 is now in committee.

In one of his first assignments since returning to duty, Champ helped try to track down a suspected stabber Monday outside Advanced Auto Parts in Harrisonville.

Valentich said Champ will need retraining before deciding if he’s able to actually take down a suspect. If not, he would be forced to retire.

“He seems eager to get put back in that situation, but we won’t know what happens until we get in that situation again," Valentich said.

One person deputies need to find again is Wilbanks. He was initially able to get out of jail on merely a signature bond. A warrant was issued for his arrest when he didn’t show up for court.

Despite his failure to appear, since Wilbanks is only charged with misdemeanors, his bond still wouldn’t be that hard to post if he turns himself in. He would need just $400, or 10 percent of the $4,000 bond.