Sean Kirst: A photographer captures Permanent Picture of Officer Craig Lehner

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The encounter, short and unforgettable, returned into Shannon Davis when she read the news reports. She’s an Atlanta photographer, born in Buffalo, who’s been operating for two years on a picture article on her own hometown. Her attention is catching the lives of everyday people within the city’s Old First Ward.

Three months ago, in July, Buffalo Police Officer Sean Zoll consented to give Davis a tour of the ward, since he understands it. “He also patrols that area, he whined about it and he is very passionate about it,” Davis explained. Just before dusk, they stopped in the police department’s K-9 training space, in an old industrial area along Louisiana Street.

For several reasons — due to the privacy of the place, due to the setting sunlight — the minute made an impression on Davis, even prior to everything which happened Friday.

Yet it requires on importance due to her dialogue.

Lehner, 34, a nine-year veteran of the police division, was missing since he disappeared Friday through a training session for Buffalo police divers from the Niagara River. For the previous four times, several local, state, national and Canadian agencies possess combined forces at a furious and hard search.

Zoll introduced Davis to Lehner, a K-9 officer for about a year. Lehner told her about his puppy Shield, a 4-year-old German shepherd purchased by the Buffalo police from a training centre near Rochester. As they talked, Davis explained, the puppy — intention and preoccupied — wandered in circles at the training area, nose down, sniffing the ground.

“He never stopped operating,” Davis said of Shield.

Lehner told her puppy, born from the Netherlands, answered at first only to orders. Lehner responded by instructing himself German to make it more easy on the puppy. That kind of dedication helped clarify the electrical and palpable connection Davis felt between the officer and the creature.

Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner together with his puppy Shield in the K-9 training area around Louisiana Street. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Davis)

Other officers have spoken of Lehner was a distinct person, a well-read guy who could thoughtfully discuss a array of topics, a guy who followed a disciplined fitness regimen. As a photographer, Davis said, she had been struck by how he wore his hair and the fancy tattoos on his arms his spiked hair, ” she said, “nearly reminded me of flames” — but what she’s discovered most memorable was his demeanor:

“There clearly was a soul, a humility, in a really calm way,” she said. “Unlike a lot of people, he didn’t want to talk about himself. He was just so proud of his puppy. He just looked like such a sensitive, thoughtful individual.”

Lehner served using the Army National Guard in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Davis photographed him Shield, then asked if she would take 1 picture of Lehner, independently. Looking back on it, she’s thankful for the two pictures.

She felt one captured Lehner’s pride and love for his puppy, as well as Shield’s intensity, the method by which the creature never stopped from doing the job.

But she’s particularly happy with the second picture of Lehner at simplicity. “After you see his saying, the serene, the soulfulness, how he is so open and unguarded, that is exactly who I felt I had been studying,” she said.

Lehner said to Davis how Shield received his title, how Lehner called the puppy for Buffalo Police Officer James Shields, killed in a 2002 vehicle accident while responding to a robbery call. Davis, struck by Lehner’s intensity and sincerity, along with him that she could do an whole calendar on him also stated that at some point she hoped to photograph him.

It was becoming dark, however, the training area has been illuminated. Lehner told that he planned on staying late to operate with Shield, also Davis asked him when that didn’t make him feel lonely.

“It’s not lonely,” Lehner said. “I’ve got my dog.”

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