Suspect Allegedly Kills Police K-9 in Florida Mall Shooting

'He gave his life to save others'
By Epoch Newsroom
Epoch Newsroom
Epoch Newsroom
December 25, 2018 Updated: December 26, 2018

A police K-9 who saved the lives of several officers is dead and a suspect hospitalized, after a shooting near a Florida shopping mall on Christmas Eve, authorities have announced.

In a statement dated Dec. 25, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Therese Barbera confirmed authorities had searched for two suspects wanted on warrants for attempted first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm. The suspects were located in the afternoon on Dec. 24 at the Wellington Green Mall.

“He gave his life to save others. He’s a good boy and he will never be forgotten. Rest In Peace #K9Cigo,” said the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in a post to Twitter of the dog, named Cigo.

Barbera said undercover deputies secured an area of the mall parking lot and confronted the men when they came outside.

“The pain felt by #K9Cigo’s handler/partner is strong. Our prayers are with him tonight,” the department said on Twitter.

Suspect Justin Vazquez, 19, surrendered immediately. The other Giovany Ramos Alvarez, 28, ran off according to Barbera.

Cigo, 3, pursued Alvarez. Barbera said Alvarez turned and fired multiple times, striking Cigo before two deputies returned fire, wounding the suspect.

No bystanders at the mall were injured in the shooting. Both deputies involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave with pay, according to the sheriff’s office.

Alvarez was hospitalized on Dec. 25 in a serious condition, Barbera said.

“He’s pretty well wounded,” Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said at a news conference about the dog, reported WPTV. “It’s very unfortunate but at least no deputies are dead, no civilians dead, and we got two very dangerous people off the street right now.”

Epoch Times Photo
Cigo (L), the police K-9, who died in the Florida mall shooting on Dec. 24, 2018 and the police officer (R) who mourned the loss of Cigo. (Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office)

Cigo was pronounced dead at an animal hospital.

“We made sure that there wasn’t going to be any pedestrian traffic, there wasn’t going to be any danger to the public but we had to get these two guys,” Bradshaw said. “They are very dangerous people already involved in an attempted first-degree murder so, once we found them, we weren’t going to let them out of this parking lot.”

Bradshaw reminded reporters the dog did its job to protect the lives of officers.

“Remember, the dog did his job and he saved those officer’s lives,” he said in the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We got two very dangerous people off the street. Unfortunately it took the life of one of our dogs.”

Both deputies involved in the shooting are on administrative leave. Other details about the case are not clear.

According to one K-9 training school, a K-9 officer’s responsibilities are multi-faceted.

“A K9 officer’s responsibilities are those of a general police officer, except that they are carried out with a police dog,” the website said. “Police dogs may accompany their human partners on traffic stops, responding to assistance calls or emergencies, apprehending suspects, and acting as a representative of the police force in public engagements.”

“A K9 officer’s responsibilities go beyond shift hours. A police dog is the officer’s partner at home and at work,” the website added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.