The City of Buffalo will soon rename a police training facility after an officer who died during a training exercise in the Niagara River last fall. It is one of two tributes to the late Lieutenant Craig Lehner that was announced Monday.
The Buffalo Police Department's K9 training center on Louisiana Street will soon be formally renamed after Lehner, who was a member of the K9 Unit and the Police Underwater Rescue and Recovery Team. Lehner died during a training exercise for the latter in October 2017.
Mayor Byron Brown joined Buffalo Police administration as well as members of Lehner's family to unveil a sign bearing Lehner's name. It will be posted at a formal rededication ceremony to be held later this year.
Brown explained that some repair projects on the grounds will be completed first.
"When we have the official renaming of the facility, we look forward to showing you some of the improvements and some of the repairs that have been made inside the facility," the mayor said.
Tributes to Lehner could be seen tied to the fence outside the training center. His mother, Kathleen Lehner, said her family knew her son was "a great guy" but she never fully realized how beloved and respected he was among peers.
"Dedicated, humble, just loved his job and especially he got in K9," she said.
Lehner's partner, Shield, is still an active member of the K9 squad. He was also present for the announcement with his new handler, Officer Matthew Richards, who said the dog has been good to work with. A chemistry is forming and Richards noted the dog is good with kids, including his own. Some young children were also present at the announcement and interacted with Shield, who was gentle but could occasionally intimidate them with his loud bark.
Richards reflected on taking over the partnership that ended upon Lehner's passing.
"It's an honor," he said. "I hope I'm up to the task of doing it. So far, I feel like I've done a pretty good job and hope to continue the great training that Lieutenant Lehner started."
The renaming of the training facility is one of two tributes unveiled Monday. The other was the public introduction of the latest member of the K9 Unit, a German Shepard named Lehner. The one-and-a-half year-old dog is being handled by Officer Jared Domaracki.
The Buffalo Police Department's K9 Unit is currently made up seven dogs and seven handlers.