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K-9 training facility renamed in memory of Lt. Craig Lehner

The K-9 Training Facility in Buffalo has officially been renamed after fallen officer, Lt. Craig Lehner.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In the presence of family, friends, K-9 teams and Buffalo Police; Mayor Byron Brown announced that the K-9 training facility on Louisiana Street is now called the "Lt. Craig E. Lehner K-9 Training Facility."

Craig's mother, Kathleen Lehner, and sister, Donna Wilson, helped unveil the new sign.

"They all said he was an inspiration," Kathleen Lehner told 2 On Your Side, "and it's really coming to fruition."

But this moment almost didn't happen for the Lehner family because, they tell us they were not invited to the event by the City of Buffalo.

They found out about it from a family friend, hours before the event.

"It was kind of rough," admits Wilson, "last minute...trying to get ready. But in a way, we kinda say that's the story of our lives...just one thing after another."

In January, Lehner's sister filed a notice of claim against the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Police Department for her brother's death. While it's not a lawsuit, it's often a precursor to one.

2 On Your Side asked Mayor Brown why the family was not invited to the event.

"The family is officially invited to anything that we do that involves Ofr. Lehner," Brown responded. "This is simply an announcement that we will do a dedication. This is not the actual dedication of the facility."

The following are event details we received from the City of Buffalo in preparation for Monday's renaming event:

As National Police Week gets underway, Mayor Byron W. Brown, Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood and the Buffalo Police Department are scheduled to formally dedicate the Buffalo Police K-9 Training Facility in memory of one of their own, Lt. Craig E. Lehner. Lehner was a nine-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Force, a full-time Buffalo Police K-9 Officer and a member of the Buffalo Police Underwater, who served in teh Army National Guard. He was laid to rest last fall after a tragic water training exercise in teh Niagara River on October 13th.Lehner's partner, Shield, will be at the event with his new handler. The newest member of the Police K-9 Team will also be introduced.

This is part of the press release given to reporters at the event:

In preparation for today's renaming event, the facility underwent significant interior and exterior upgrades, thanks in part to a generous donation from the Home Depot Foundation and the hard work of the 'Women in Leadership Team Depot.'

"We felt rushed," said Wilson about not being notified, "but we're here. And we're very happy we were able to be a part of it."

Lehner's former K-9 partner Shield was at the renaming event, with his new handler Ofr. Matt Richards.

"If it wasn't for Craig and the great training he's done with Shield," said Ofr. Richards, "my job would be so much harder right now."

At the event, Lehner's family got to spend time with Shield's new family, the Richards.

Wilson says it's bittersweet to see, "We're happy to see him working. We don't know Ofr. Richards personally, but seems like a great guy."

The Richards have two dogs, three kids, and a baby on the way.

Shield is in training mode right now, so Ofr. Richards tells 2 On Your Side there aren't too many interactions with other members of his new family. But they're all really excited to have Shield with them.

"He's great," admits Ofr. Richards. "He's really good with the kids. He's adjusted very well. No real issues with him."

"Sometimes he barks late at night, but hopefully we can get that under control and it'll be fine," Richards added with a laugh.

Ofr. Richards tells 2 On Your Side he graduated from the police academy with Lt. Lehner, so he says he feels really lucky to be able to do this for Lehner and Shield.

At the event, Buffalo Police debuted the latest K-9 to join the team. Named after the fallen officer, "Lehner" is just about a year old. He's being trained for police work by his handler, Ofr. Jared Domarachi, who is also new to the team. Recent fundraising made the K-9 addition possible.

This brings the total number of Buffalo police dogs to seven.

"They all loved him and it shows how much they respected him, and his abilities...very proud," said Kathleen Lehner of the additional honor.

The Lehner family tells 2 On Your Side they plan to go down to Washington D.C. for National Police Week events.

Later this week, Lt. Lehner's name will be formally engraved and dedicated at the 30th annual Candlelight Vigil on the National Mall.

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