K9 officer killed in the line of duty will be missed, says police chief

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – A police chief remembers and honors his beloved K9 officer killed in the line of duty earlier this month.

On February 17, a decorated K9 officer was fatally shot in southern Jordan while pursuing a gunman charged with aggravated assault and holding a woman against her will.

Eight officers from different departments shot Zachary Tyler Alvarenga, 25, of West Jordan, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Monday, West Jordan police officers and guest K9 handlers from across the state gathered to pay their respects and say goodbye to Maya, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois, during a memorial service and procession in the city.

Goodbye, Maya, we will miss you

West Jordan Police Chief Ken Wallentine spoke to KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic about the important role Maya has played in law enforcement and how much she will be missed by police officers.

“Let me say that I’m sorry for his loss, for the loss of Maya,” Dujanovic said.

“Thank you for that. And thank you for paying attention to this important event,” Wallentine said.

Wallentine said K9 officers are trained to keep gunfire away from officers.

“When we lose a dog, there are losses on many levels, not the least of which is the loss of a family member for the handler and the handler’s family.

“We see these dogs doing what they are trained, and unfortunately, sent to . . . keep the fire away and save the lives of the officers. Sometimes, as was the case with Maya, taking a bullet for one of my cops who went home — and she didn’t,” Wallentine said.

Life as a K9 Police Dog

“Can you help us understand how much time, effort and money goes into training one of these dogs?” asked Noriega.

“Dave, it’s not just time, effort and money. As a former dog handler, there’s a lot of sweat and sometimes a bit of blood that goes into it,” the chief said.

Before a dog is selected for police service, up to two years of training must be completed, Wallentine said, adding that basic training takes an additional six to eight weeks.

“We don’t see dogs at full capacity until they’ve spent a lot of time with their handler and practiced in the field,” he said.

“How long will a dog typically serve?” asked Noriega.

“Typically, we’ll see five to seven years. . . . It is a very physically demanding job for the dog and for the handler. . . . Sometimes you will see a little longer, maybe eight, nine years. Police dogs tend not to live more than a dozen years. It’s a tough life,” Wallentine said.

“For me, if a dog can take down a suspect and that suspect survives, that would be a victory for the canine unit. Do I understand that correctly? Dujanovic asked.

“Absolutely Debbie. It was the hope of February 17,” the chief said. “The suspect chose not to let it end this way. But it was hope. We would always rather take someone to the hospital to get a biting bandage than take them to the morgue and have to tell their family,”

Learn more about Maya:

Utah K-9 shot by fugitive corrections officer saved ‘countless’ lives, police say

Utahns pay tribute to K-9 police killed in the line of duty

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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