Wellington, FL – Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBCSO) K9 Cigo was murdered in the line of duty on Christmas Eve, after he was shot by the attempted homicide suspect he was pursuing.
“Our hearts are truly broken after a suspect shot and killed our K9 Dog tonight, on Christmas Eve,” Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said in a media release. “He did his job, giving his life to save and protect our own.”
The altercation occurred near The Mall at Wellington Green at 5:40 p.m., as officers positioned themselves to intercept and apprehend two suspects, at least one of whom was wanted for robbery with a firearm and attempted first degree murder in another case, Sheriff Bradshaw explained during a press conference on Monday night.
At the mall, the two men met up with a third suspect – a known Latin Kings gang member – who tried to escape on foot when deputies moved in on the group.
The deputies released K9 Cigo to apprehend him.
As the 3-year-old German Shepherd raced after him, the wanted fugitive turned around and shot him.
Despite being mortally wounded, K9 Cigo still managed to reach his target, the sheriff said.
The deputies returned fire, striking the suspect, who remains hospitalized in serious condition with multiple gunshot wounds.
K9 Cigo was rushed to an animal hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.
“He did his job, and saved those deputies’ lives,” Sheriff Bradshaw said. “[He] gave them the opportunity to take this person into custody, who just randomly fired at the first thing he could see.”
Deputies later identified the gunman as 28-year-old attempted homicide suspect Giovany Ramos Alvarez, WPTV reported.
One of the suspects, identified as 19-year-old Justin Vazquez, surrendered without incident, police said.
Investigators are still working to identify the remaining suspect, Sheriff Bradshaw told reporters.
Deputies recovered Alvarez’s .45-caliber handgun at the scene, and said that it was the same type of weapon that was used in the attempted murder approximately two weeks ago, according to the sheriff.
The department said that K9 Cigo had been working with his handler for approximately one year, WPTV reported.
“He’s a good boy and he will never be forgotten,” the agency tweeted on Christmas morning.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in the loss of K9 Cigo.
Rest easy, hero. Your life mattered.