Lake Wales, FL – Lake Wales Police Department (LWPD) K9 Max died in the line of duty Wednesday morning while trying to apprehend an armed felon involved in a domestic violence incident, according to police.
The WPD said the incident began at approximately 5:06 a.m. on Aug. 3, when a woman called 911 to report that 57-year-old career criminal Earnest Borders had choked her, dragged her out of a car, and bashed her head off of the concrete on Seminole Avenue, WESH reported.
The victim further reported that Borders had fired a gun near her home, according to police.
Borders fled the scene as officers were responding, WFLA reported.
When they arrived, they located nine shell casings on the ground in the location where the victim alleged the suspect had fired a gun, police said.
Police soon spotted Borders returning to the area, but he managed to run off into the woods before they could apprehend him, WFLA reported.
LWPD Officer Jared Joyner and his partner, K9 Max, responded to help other area law enforcement officers in the search for the violent felon.
Police said K9 Max located Borders attempting to hide in the densely-wooded area and alerted his fellow officers, who ordered the suspect to show his hands, WFLA reported.
That’s when Borders suddenly opened fire on the K9 with a stolen Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun, according to investigators.
Officers returned fire, hitting the gunman, WFLA reported.
Police immediately rendered aid to their wounded attacker before he was rushed to a local hospital.
Borders was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival, WFLA reported.
K9 Max succumbed to his wounds at the scene.
No other officers or bystanders were injured during the shootout, WESH reported.
Investigators said Border had 24 prior felony convictions and four misdemeanor convictions for offenses including grand theft, assault, battery, and a slew of other crimes.
He served at least three stints in prison, according to WTVJ.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) is handling the investigation into the incident, WESH reported.
“To Officer Joyner, Chief Chris Velasquez, the men and women of the Lake Wales Police Department, and the residents of Lake Wales…the Polk County Sheriff’s Office shares your grief,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a Facebook post. “[K9 Max] was the tip of the spear. He was the one sent in to protect the officers.”
“K-9 Max died doing what he was trained to do,” Sheriff Judd said. “He led the charge to apprehend a dangerous suspect who was an active threat to the community…and in doing so, he saved the lives of his partner and others.”
The seven-year-old Belgian Malinois joined the LWPD in December of 2015 and spent his entire career serving alongside Officer Joyner, WESH reported.
“We are filled with sadness, and our hearts are broken,” the department said in a Facebook post. “Not long after Officer Joyner met up with his partner, he described his partner and buddy as ‘fearless,’ and he was just that until his end of watch today.”
“Please keep Officer Joyner and his family in your thoughts and prayers,” the LWPD added.
Officer Joyner led the police procession that escorted K9 Max from the LWPD to the medical examiner’s office on Wednesday, WFLA reported.
Just now Lake Wales Police saluted fallen K9 Max, who was shot and killed by a suspect earlier this morning pic.twitter.com/2QLyTWOq4Q
— Evan Axelbank Fox13 (@EvanAxelbank) August 3, 2022
RIP. Florida K9 Max was murdered when he was shot and killed while apprehending a violent convicted felon. STOP SHOOTING MY POLICE OFFICERS!!! #rip #hero #murdered #K9Max #LakeWalesPoliceDepartment #lawenforcement #thinblueline #bluelivesmatter #backtheblue pic.twitter.com/dFLHEuXKWu
— Protecting the Blue (@protectingblue) August 4, 2022
Such a sad day for the City of Lake Wales, their police department, and especially Officer Jared Joyner who lost a partner, friend, and family member.
— Polk County Sheriff 🚔 Grady Judd (@PolkCoSheriff) August 4, 2022
• Via K9s of Valor
K9 Max 🐾🐾
The Lake Wales Police Department is mourning the loss of one of their own, K9 Max. Max was shot and killed yesterday as he assisted officers in the apprehension of a wanted felon. pic.twitter.com/MIz3gLCOze
— ALPHA PRO 🇺🇸🇪🇺🇺🇦 (@DTMsport) August 4, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lake Wales Police Department and Officer Joyner in the loss of K9 Max.