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Friday, Jan 1, 2010County: Salt Lake
Disposition: Not Charged
Case Images: 2 files available
Person of Interest: Tevita Talano Fisiitalia
Two police officers who fatally shot a burglary suspect who killed a police dog have been cleared of any wrongdoing.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office on Friday decided Midvale officer Brian Todd and Cottonwood Heights officer Chris McHugh were justified in using deadly force against Tevita Talano Fisiitalia.
The 22-year-old Fisiitalia was shot Jan. 1, 2010 as police chased him and three others from the scene of a burglary.
Todd sent his police dog, Koda, after Fisiitalia. When the 3-year-old Belgian Malinois cornered him, Fisiitalia shot the dog with a handgun.
Fisiitalia continued to run with the gun in his hand and was shot in the head by a round from Todd. He later died.
Todd has returned to work and now has a new police dog.
Officers from departments across Utah and Nevada gathered at a memorial service for a Midvale police dog shot and killed on New Year's Day.
They came by the hundreds just to say goodbye to Koda. "It's heartbreaking," said Midvale resident Kari Butts.
Midvale resident Peter Jaramillo agreed. "We're just showing our respect," He said.
Koda is the Midvale police dog who was shot and killed while chasing a burglary suspect in the early morning hours of Jan. 1. He was three years old.
His memorial service was held at Hillcrest High School in Midvale.
"It is a very sad and somber day," said Midvale Police Sgt. Marcelo Rapela. "We're paying tribute to one of our fallen officers."
The auditorium where the memorial service was held was nearly packed. During the service, Midvale police officers spoke about how important Koda was to the department, how he loved going after bad guys and how great he was with his handler's family.
Bagpipes played as Koda's ashes were put into the back of the Midvale K-9 truck one last time.
Police dogs from law enforcement agencies throughout Utah, as well as Elko County and Las Vegas, Nev. were at the memorial service. They were lined up as Koda's ashes were driven away.
"It's great to have the support from other law enforcement agencies," said Midvale Police Capt. Steve Shreeve.
The name of Koda's handler has not yet been released by the Midvale Police Department. He is still on paid administrative leave for the shooting investigation.
After Koda was shot and killed, his handler shot back at the suspect, 22-year-old Tevita Fisiitalia.
Fisiitalia was taken to a hospital where he later died.
Midvale officers say if not for Koda, Fisiitalia's bullet might have been aimed at another officer.
"The dog basically distracted the suspect long enough, and then when the suspect pulled out a handgun, he focused his attention on that K-9 as opposed to the officers," said Rapela. "We consider our K-9's as part of our department, as officers, just as if they were human."
The Midvale Police Department is getting a new dog. Officers plan to pick up the new dog in California next week.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office has helped with the cost of the new dog by donating seized money from other cases.
Platt Electric, a Midvale-based company, has donated $4,000 and the use of their private jet to transport the officers and the new dog from California.
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