Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16006
Classification: Shooting
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Friday, Jan 1, 2010

County: Salt Lake

Disposition: Alleged

Abuser names unreleased

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

A man shot and killed a Midvale city police dog Friday night while officers were chasing him and two other men during what police say was an attempted burglary. In the shooting melee, one of the men was shot by police and taken to the hospital with serious injuries and later died, according to Midvale Police Chief Tony Mason.

"Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. It sounded just like firecrackers," said Midvale resident Colton Bain. He and his wife were watching a movie in an apartment, near 6700 South and 625 East, when the shots rang out just before 8:30 p.m. Since it was New Year's Day, Bain thought it wasn't anything out of the ordinary until he heard police shouting orders and saw myriad lights outside his window.

"We could see sparks coming from their guns," he said. "We laid down on the balcony and watched because we didn't want to get shot."

Bain said the area is typically very quiet, aside from freeway traffic running through the area.

Police responded to what was called in to dispatchers as a burglary in progress in the area, and the three men tried to escape over a 20-foot concrete retaining wall onto I-215. Police K-9s were called to the scene, as well as officers from other departments. Late Friday, police weren't sure how many shots were fired, but the area was secured for an overnight investigation.

"It's always a close call," Mason said. "They obviously feared for their lives, and this was what came of it."

The chief said the incident was being treated as an "officer-involved shooting," in which the officers involved will be placed on leave throughout the investigation. The dog's handler was present and, Mason said, "it's obviously very emotional for him." In addition to the Midvale officer and dog, an officer from the Cottonwood Heights Police Department was also on scene when the shooting occurred.

Koda, a Belgian Malinois, had been in service with the Midvale K-9 squad a little over a year but had just finished a second Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training course with a new handler a couple months ago. He was pronounced dead on location.

All three men, including the one taken to the hospital, were in police custody Friday night. Shortly after they fled, they were apprehended in the backyard of a residence. Police closed the road to all traffic while they investigated.

Case Updates

Almost 200 police service dogs and their handlers lined up at Hillcrest High School to honor one of their own Saturday.

As the remains of Koda, a Midvale police dog allegedly shot by a man accused of attempted burglary on New Year's Day, were marched down the line, dogs were whimpering and barking as if they might have understood what was going on.

Koda's handler hung the dog's leash on the door of the carrier inside his truck and said a tearful goodbye to his partner for the last time. The dog's ashes will remain with the family he protected and loved, and a Midvale officer will soon be traveling to California to purchase a new pooch with money freed up by selling off seized assets from previous police searches in the area.

Nearly a thousand people attended the afternoon memorial service for the 31/2-year-old Belgian Malinois that had been in service with Midvale for the past year and a half.

Midvale police officer Gerry Wayne, who helped train Koda, read from a letter he wrote to help him with the grieving process, and said that although Koda tried his patience at times, the dog helped him feel confident as a K9 officer. Wayne's first dog had bitten him twice, making for an inopportune experience handling police dogs.

"You were always spinning in circles when you wanted something," he said. "I always thought you had a goal to be a NASCAR dog, the problem is you spun the wrong way." Koda was assigned to a new handler in the summer of last year, but Wayne said Koda died doing what made him happy, and in turn, "it made me proud."

Koda's handler was less than 100 feet away when he heard the gunshots allegedly fired by Tevita Talanoa Fisiitalia, who died later that night from a gunshot wound suffered after Koda was shot.

"Officers were in jeopardy from the moment they arrived that night," Midvale Capt. Steve Shreeve said during the service for Koda. "He gave his life so others would not have to. He did what he was trained to do."

Shreeve said the service was meant to honor all officers, including K9s, who put their lives on the line every day they serve.

"A primary reason for having dogs is that an officer can go home at night after an experience with a deadly force encounter," said Wendell Nope, an instructor with the Utah Police Academy. He said K9 units know they are more likely to encounter potentially deadly situations because they are used to investigate tough crimes involving drugs, explosives and also to pursue fleeing criminals.

"That's what they do," he said. "They are trained to do what Koda did."

Nope said he believes Koda and his handler will meet again. And when they do, he said the dog, "if he could talk, would say: 'I did good, didn't I, Daddy?' "

No one can describe the bond between a police dog and its handler, said another Midvale K9 officer, Kresdon Bennett. "I'm your right arm, the sword at your side …," Bennett read from a statement describing what it feels like to be "guardians of the night" together.

Next to where Koda would be eagerly awaiting his next duty sat a water cooler. Soon, his cage will be filled with a new member of the Midvale force, but until then, his leash will hang there, reminding the patrol of the friend and protector Koda was to them.
Source: Deseret News - Jan 15, 2010
Update posted on Jan 17, 2010 - 6:16PM 
Police shot and killed a burglary suspect after officials say he opened fire and killed a police dog.

Police Chief Tony Mason says the deadly exchange came Friday night as police on foot chased three burglary suspects in Midvale.

He says 1 of the suspects ran into a backyard where he fired and hit the dog and police shot back.

The suspect was struck at least once and died a short while later at Intermountain Medical Center.

Two other suspects are in custody.

Mason says the officers feared for their lives.
Source: Local News 8 - Jan 2, 2009
Update posted on Jan 2, 2010 - 8:09PM 


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