CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

K9 officer killed in officer-involved shooting, suspect is identified

Feb 18, 2022, 6:51 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:21 am

(PS9 officer Maya seen after a drug case she worked on.  Photo courtesy the West Jordan Police Depa...

(PS9 officer Maya seen after a drug case she worked on. Photo courtesy the West Jordan Police Department)

(PS9 officer Maya seen after a drug case she worked on. Photo courtesy the West Jordan Police Department)

WEST JORDAN, Utah — The suspect involved in Thursday evening’s officer-involved shooting in South Jordan has been identified as 25-year-old Zachary Alvarenga of West Jordan. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies from around the state have expressed their condolences for the K9 officer killed.

On Friday, West Jordan police confirmed that Alvarenga was an officer with the Utah Department of Corrections. The woman he allegedly held against her will was someone he used to work with.

Police chased the suspect 3 times

Investigators say they first heard Alvarenga was threatening a woman with a gun and refusing to let her leave his car.  The woman was able to escape, but officers say they chased Alvarenga three different times.  During these pursuits, he reportedly called his victim’s family and threatened to harm them.  Police spiked his tires in the area of 11400 South Redwood in South Jordan, and West Jordan Police Officer Sam Winkler said Alvarenga tried to run from his car after that.

He said, “Mr. Alvarenga actually fired towards officers and PSD Maya succumbed to the gunfire injuries she suffered that night.”

Police are not certain if Maya was hit by Alvarenga’s bullets or by one of the eight police officers who returned fire.  Winkler said Maya was issued a bulletproof vest, but the situation was unfolding so quickly, her handler didn’t have time to put it on her.

“Whether it would have saved her, I don’t know where she was struck.  She was issued a vest, but it was just too quick to get her vest on,” Winkler said.

According to a West Jordan police press release, eight officers fired their weapons at Alvarenga.

Four of the officers work for the West Jordan Police Department, two work for South Jordan PD, and two work for the Unified Police Department.  All eight of them have been administrative leave while West Valley Police lead the investigation.  Winker confirmed body cameras worn by officers recorded the shooting.

Condolences for Maya

After the news broke of Maya’s death, messages of love and support came from law enforcement agencies from all over the state. 

The Kaysville Police Department posted a message on their Facebook page, saying, “Our hearts are heavy as we hear of the passing of K9 Maya of the City of West Jordan Police Department. Your service will never be forgotten.”

The Orem Police Department posted, “Our hearts broke hearing of the tragic loss of Maya, a Police K9 from West Jordan. Our thoughts are with everyone at the West Jordan Police Department and especially with Maya’s handler. Officer Maya gave her life to protect others, and she will never be forgotten.  Rest In Peace Maya.”

Winkler said K9 officers hold a special place in law enforcement.

“[The dog] becomes a big part of our family, and it’s a huge loss to us, emotionally,” he said.

Funeral services are being planned for Maya, and it’s expected to happen Monday, February 28 at 11:00 a.m.  However, the location has not been set, and it won’t be open to the public.

“We are reserving that for officers and K9 officers, only.  We know the public does want to be a part of that,” Winkler said.  “There will be one final patrol for PSD Maya after the ceremony.”

The public is invited to attend Maya’s final procession, but the route hasn’t been set, yet.

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K9 officer killed in officer-involved shooting, suspect is identified