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Hero Down: Tacoma PD K9 Ronja Fatally Shot By Convicted Child Sex Trafficker Accused Of Murder

Tacoma, WA – Tacoma Police Department (TPD) K9 Ronja was fatally shot by a convicted child sex trafficker while she was searching for him in connection with a homicide investigation on Aug. 13.

The chain of events that led up to the killing of the police K9 began on Aug. 12, when eight-time felon Dyrell Swinson, 27, confronted a fellow gang member about allegedly being in a romantic relationship with the mother of Swinson’s children, KIRO reported.

The other gang member, 28-year-old Jake Red, denied being involved with the woman, and the men ended up socializing together like normal for the afternoon, according to court documents.

But a second confrontation occurred at approximately 5 p.m., when Swinson pulled up alongside a vehicle that Red was riding in and demanded to know why he wasn’t answering his phone, KIRO reported.

Swinson and the unnamed witness driving the second vehicle pulled into a parking lot near the intersection of South Yakima Avenue and South 64th Street, where Swinson again accused Red of being in a relationship with the mother of Swinson’s children, according to court documents.

Red denied the allegation yet again, but Swinson apparently did not believe him, KIRO reported.

“He said words to the effect of, ‘I think you’re playing me,’ and then, without provocation, shot Red in the neck,” according to court documents.

The driver of the second vehicle pulled out his own gun and fired at Swinson multiple times before driving away with Red to find help, KIRO reported.

Red died from multiple gunshot wounds to the stomach, back, and neck, according to investigators.

The driver of the second vehicle allegedly spoke to investigators about what had transpired, and security footage of the shooting backed his claims, KIRO reported.

Swinson was also wanted for failing to register as a sex offender at the time of the shooting.

Police launched a manhunt for Swinson and ultimately spotted him driving at approximately 1:15 a.m. on Aug. 13.

The convicted felon refused to pull over, leading officers on a chase, KIRO reported.

Before police could catch up with him, Swinson crashed into an unoccupied vehicle and took off on foot through a residential area.

K9 Ronja, a two-year-old German shepherd, was among the officers who responded to the area to search for the accused murderer, KIRO reported.

Police soon found Swinson hiding beneath an SUV, at which point he allegedly opened fire on them, according to court documents.

K9 Ronja was shot during the attack, and her handler was struck by shrapnel, police said.

One of the officers returned fire, hitting Swinson, KIRO reported.

“It appears that the defendant stopped shooting at the officers only because his firearm malfunctioned when two live rounds were fed into the chamber,” according to court documents.

Swinson’s ammunition and firearm were recovered from underneath the vehicle where he had been hiding, police said.

He was transported to a local hospital in critical condition, but is expected to survive his wounds, KIRO reported.

K9 Ronja was rushed to a veterinarian hospital, where she succumbed to her wounds.

Swinson has since been charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, three counts of first-degree assault, harming a police dog, and second-degree murder, KIRO reported.

His prior felony offenses include convictions for unlawful possession of a firearm, attempting to elude, and sex trafficking of children.

K9 Ronja served with the TPD for just eight months, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

“It is with great sadness we pass along the news that one of our beloved K9s was killed in the line of duty overnight,” the TPD said in a Facebook post. “She sacrificed herself to save the life of her partner and her fellow officers.”

K9 Ronja was born and named in the Czech Republic, and her name means “bringing victory,” the TPD said in a press release.

She arrived in the United States in January of 2020, and went on to complete over 400 hours of intensive training in April alongside her human partner, TPD Officer Jennifer Syler.

“From their first day together, the bond between K9 Ronja and K9 Officer Syler was undeniable – it is rare to have a female tracking K9, and to have the dog be partnered with a female handler is something truly special,” the department said.

“K9s hold a very special place in our hearts – their loyalty, bravery and dedication is inspiring,” the TPD’s post read. “Her death is heartbreaking for her handler, our department and all those in the community who came to know her.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Tacoma Police Department and Officer Syler in the loss of K9 Ronja.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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