West Jordan, UT – West Jordan Police Department (WJPD) K9 Maya was fatally shot in the line of duty on Feb. 17 while trying to apprehend a violent suspect.
Police said the six-year-old Belgian Malinois jumped in the line of fire, shielding her human colleagues from being hit, KTVX reported.
“Maya leapt upward and stopped a bullet intended for her handler,” West Jordan Police Chief Ken Wallentine told the Deseret News.
The incident began at approximately 11 a.m., when police received a report of an aggravated assault and hostage situation in South Jordan.
The caller said the suspect, later identified as 25-year-old Zachary Tyler Alvarenga, was holding a woman against her will, according to KSL.
Police said the woman managed to escape and that Alvarenga began chasing her, KTVX reported.
Officers spotted the suspect and pursued him to Jordan Landing, where they discontinued the chase due to safety concerns.
A second pursuit was initiated a short while later, but was also called off over safety concerns, KTVX reported.
Meanwhile, Alvarenga allegedly called the family members of the woman he held captive and threatened to harm them, police said.
Police located the suspect and kept him under surveillance while detectives contacted him by phone and tried to negotiate with him.
They ultimately ended up chasing Alvarenga a third time before they successfully deflated his tires in the area of Redwood Road and 11400 South and brought the vehicle to a stop, KTVX reported.
The suspect bailed out of the car and took off on foot behind the Jordan Credit Union.
He then opened fire on police as they closed in, fatally wounding K9 Maya, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Officers returned fire, killing the gunman.
K9 Maya was rushed to a veterinary hospital, where she succumbed to her wounds.
“She saved the lives of many officers that night and will be remembered as a hero,” the WJPD said, according to KSL.
K9 Maya served her department alongside her human partner, WJPD Officer Tyler Longmore, for four years, the Deseret News reported.
“What we referred to as work, Maya referred to as play time. She loved her play. She had a great nose for finding narcotics and tracking suspects,” WJPD Lieutenant Chad Haun said K9 Maya’s memorial service on Feb. 28. “During her four years working with West Jordan, Maya became the best and most reliable narcotics dog that we have. Maya was finding narcotics every single shift that she worked.”
WJPD Sergeant Michael Jones, who leads the agency’s K9 Unit, said K9 Maya and Officer Longmore were like “two old souls that had been together for a lifetime,” the Deseret News reported.
“She only wanted to please him,” Sgt. Jones added. “Her obedience was second to none. She had a special place in everyone’s heart.”
Officer Longmore was presented with the WJPD’s highest honor – the Medal of Valor – and a folded American flag at the conclusion of K9 Maya’s memorial service, the Deseret News reported.
— Kristina Causse (@jazzr1) February 28, 2022
Today, we joined our law enforcement partners & the public to pay our respects to West Jordan Police K9 Maya. She died while protecting and serving the community. I continue to wish the West Jordan Police Department strength during this difficult time. #SLC #SLCPD #SaltLakeCity pic.twitter.com/rCutXE1SHd
— Chief Mike Brown (@ChiefMikeBrown) March 1, 2022
The support we have received from the community over the loss of #k9maya has been heartwarming. Thank you and let the memory of Maya and her heroism be an inspiration to us all! #thankyou #feelthelove pic.twitter.com/MvNYR3iKQe
— West Jordan Police Dept. (@WJPD_PIO) February 22, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the West Jordan Police Department and Officer Longmore in the loss of K9 Maya.