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

Mar 1, 2022, 4:08 PM
maya vet tech...
Image of West Jordan K9 officer, Maya. Photo credit: West Jordan Police Department

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — A police chief is remembering and honoring his beloved K9 officer killed in the line of duty earlier this month.

On Feb. 17, a decorated K9 officer was shot and killed in South Jordan, while chasing a gunman accused of aggravated assault and holding a woman against her will.

Eight officers from different departments fired shots at 25-year-old Zachary Tyler Alvarenga of West Jordan, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

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

Goodbye, Maya, you will be missed

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

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

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

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

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

“We see these dogs ultimately do what they’re trained, and sadly, sent to . . . draw the fire away and save officers’ lives. Sometimes, as was the case with Maya, take a bullet for one of my cops who got to go 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?” Noriega asked.

“Dave, it’s not just time, effort, and money. As a former dog handler, there’s a lot of sweat and sometimes a little 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 performed, Wallentine said, adding that basic training takes an additional six to eight weeks.

“We don’t see the dogs for full capacity until they’ve had some significant time with their handler and worked out in the field,” he said.

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

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

“To me, if a dog can take down a suspect, and that suspect survives that would be a win for the canine unit. Do I have my mind wrapped around that correctly?” Dujanovic asked.

“Absolutely Debbie. That was the hope on February 17,” the chief said. “The suspect chose not to let it end that way. But that was the hope. We would always prefer to take someone to the hospital to get a bite bandage than to take them to the morgue and have to let their family know,”

Read more about Maya:

Utah K-9 killed by fleeing corrections officer saved ‘countless’ lives, police say

Utahns honor police K-9 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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K9 officer who was killed in line of duty will be missed, says police chief