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BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) - Benton police are mourning the loss of their K-9 'Benton' Thursday morning after a brief illness.

"In his life there in the city he's probably touched several hundred thousand kid's lives," said Sgt. Brian Bigelow with the Benton Police Department.

Police Chief Kirk Lane released this Thursday afternoon:

It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the passing of our K-9 'Benton' early this morning after a brief illness.

Benton was recently diagnosed with Lyme Disease and was being treated for it, and appeared to be improving. On the morning of Wednesday, January 8th, he started taking a turn for the worst and after his arrival at the veterinary hospital it was discovered he was also suffering from an autoimmune disease. Benton's condition started deteriorating rapidly and he passed away during the morning hours of January 9th.

"It's stronger than the officer has with his spouse and his children," said Tony Smith with Little Rock K-9 Academy. Smith trained Benton as a narcotics dog.

Benton was born in 2008 and graduated from the Little Rock K-9 Academy in the spring of 2009 and started with his first handler, former Officer Chris Eaton, immediately afterwards. In 2010, Detective Eli Fowlkes took over as Benton's handler until recently when Officer Hunter Begoon took over and was his handler at the time of his passing.

Benton was a black Labrador Retriever and was trained in narcotics detection. Benton's name was chosen by holding a contest among local 3rd graders at the time. They submitted a name and an essay explaining why the name they came up with should be chosen. Student Autumn Myers, who was a student at Ringgold Elementary School at the time, named Benton after the city she loves.

Over the course of his career, Benton and Det. Fowlkes were directly involved in the seizure of over 9 lbs. of cocaine, 48 lbs. of methamphetamine, 20 lbs. of marijuana, and over $100,000 in drug proceeds. They were also directly involved in the seizure of several vehicles used to transport illegal narcotics, three of which had electronically operated compartments used to conceal the drugs.

During his career, Benton helped to not only rid the streets of illegal narcotics, but he also touched many other people's lives through the numerous community events he attended and special programs for kids.

During Benton's time at the veterinary hospital, the entire K-9 team members used their own time to be with him in an effort to comfort him during his illness. Benton's service is appreciated beyond words and we will miss him immensely.

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