A beloved K-9 handler with the Pine County Sheriff’s Office has died.
Ben Neel, 37, underwent surgery in December to remove one of two brain tumors. He suffered “a massive brain stem stroke” resulting from complications of the surgery, his family wrote on Facebook. Neel died Wednesday at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
“To say our office is sad is an understatement,” a posting on the Pine County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page read. “Deputy Neel was a great deputy and man overall. He was everyone’s best friend.”
Neel began his career with the Sheriff’s Office in August 2003. Over the years he served as the school resource officer at Hinckley-Finlayson High School and was a trainer for Firearms, Taser, and Search and Rescue. In 2006 he became a SWAT team member and three years ago became a K-9 handler paired with a dog named Chewy.
“Through many criminal apprehensions, searches, and narcotics detections, these partners are inseparable,” read a GoFundMe campaign started by one of Neel’s co-workers at the Sheriff’s Office to help cover medical expenses. As of Friday, the fundraiser had brought in more than $39,000.
Neel was a graduate of Hinckley-Finlayson High School and Hibbing Community College.
He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and four sons.
Services will be at noon Jan. 18 at Hinckley-Finlayson High School. Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Swanson Funeral Chapel in Pine City.