LAKE WALES, FL – If not for a K-9 named Max, we would likely be sharing a line of duty death of a Lake Wales PD officer. That sentiment was echoed by Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez.
“This dog did exactly what he was trained to do. He ultimately saved the lives of police officers this morning,” the chief said in an August 4th press conference.
“I fully, wholeheartedly believe that we would be up here talking about dead police officers if that K-9 had not been in service this morning.”
Here is what we know about the events that led to the 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, who had been working with the LWPD since December 2015, making the ultimate sacrifice.
Earnest Borders is a 57-year-old convicted felon with a long history of criminal activity. He has been in the Florida State Prison three times, racking up twenty-four felony charges, four misdemeanors and eighteen felony convictions.
The day he shot Max, he was in possession of the murder weapon, a stolen Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol.
According to the Miami Hearld, a woman called 911 to report that Borders dragged her out of her car, slammed her head into the concrete, choked her and fired multiple shots outside her home. Police later confirmed the gunshot allegations, finding 9 shell casings in the area.
By the time officers arrived, Borders had left the area, returning later with the stolen handgun still in his possession. When they attempted to arrest the career criminal, he fled into the woods.
Officers from Lake Wales were joined by deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s office in their attempt to apprehend Broders.
LWPD K-9 officer Jared Joyner, an 11-year veteran of the department, and his partner Max tracked Borders down.
Max did exactly what he had been trained to do. He went to take Borders down, latching onto his leg. As the dog continued to subdue the suspect, officers repeatedly told him to put his hands up. Instead, he fired at least one shot, killing Max.
Officers on the scene opened fire on the convict, killing him and ending the threat.
The two officers who opened fire have not been identified, but both have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Given the assumed proximity to Max, it could be assumed that Joyner may have been one of the officers who took the suspect down.
Chief Velasquez said that Joyner was “devastated by the death of Max,” whom he worked and lived with for more than 6 years.
During a news conference, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd weighed in on the loss of Max.
“It crushes you because that K-9 died so the police officers wouldn’t. He was the tip of the spear. He was the one sent in to protect the officers while they attempted to arrest a man who had been actively shooting after he committed a violent domestic violence and what we lost today was one of our partners.”
A memorial service for Max has been planned for August 9.
My friend Jedi: Meet the police K9 who saved countless lives and officers before he was murdered in cold blood.
Editor note from ODMP: K9 Jedi was stabbed to death while attempting an apprehension of a burglary suspect in the 2200 block of South Eddy Street at about 2:45 pm.
A resident in the home called 911 to report a subject armed with a machete was attempting to break in. Responding units encountered the subject who then fled on foot. Officers pursued him to the 6700 block of Swift Avenue South where K9 Jedi was released to perform an apprehension. The man fatally stabbed K9 Jedi during the apprehension and then stabbed an officer in the face before being shot and killed.
The murders of several Washington state professional law enforcers recently have compounded the grief of the murder of Jedi.
This year I’ve worn a mourning band across my badge more often than not. Though I did not have the honor of knowing those officers and deputy, Jedi I knew, very well.
Let me tell you a bit about him.
I first met Jedi several years ago.
He and his partner accompanied me on many dangerous calls and arrested many dangerous criminals. I knew they would always have my back.
Each of them highly trained, competent and capable.
The consummate professionals, but together, Jedi and his partner were the epitome of expert tactical synergy.
Watching them work was an absolute treat. Everyone felt safer whenever Jedi and his partner were around, they were completely dialed in.
This meant that Jedi paid little attention to me, or anything else, when his partner was around and he was on the job.
The bond between brothers in arms is a well known and often dramatized phenomenon. The bond between a K9 and his partner is utterly extraordinary, and unfathomable for the uninitiated.
I didn’t take it personally when Jedi mostly ignored me, he loved his partner in a way I think we can’t really understand.
Jedi knew, as much as a dog can know, that his job was to keep us safe, and he took his job very seriously. It certainly never stopped me from giving him pats, and telling him he’s the goodest boy ever (don’t tell my dogs), which he happily accepted.
For me everything changed one day when Jedi’s partner stopped a stolen car, and its occupants exited and fled. The K9 pair gave chase and cornered them at the end of a driveway, and in desperation the criminals tried forcing their way inside the home.
Obvious sounds of fighting, shouting and orders, were being accidentally broadcasted on the radio as the officer’s microphone was being activated during the struggle. I was terrified that my friends were being hurt, or possibly murdered.
When I got there, it was unclear where exactly they were, but it was clear that they needed help. So, I ran. I got out of my car, and I ran maybe two or three blocks checking every driveway on the way until I could hear the fight and made a beeline.
When I found Jedi and his partner, they were still embroiled in a life-or-death struggle, and I couldn’t get into it quick enough. When it was over, maybe 60 seconds later, we had two car thieves in custody, two stolen cars recovered, multitudes of stolen property, and probably half a dozen cops with two or more hours of paperwork to do and many weeks of inquests to be subjected to.
As is typical, administrators get months and unfettered resources to evaluate and pass judgement on what we had milliseconds to choose to act with nothing but our hands and what we carried.
Jedi however was not happy with the outcome; he had more fight in him. As he was being placed back in his car, he could see one of the thieves still struggling and arguing with me while I was searching him despite his handcuffs and prone position.
While it was of no concern to me, to a devoted and tenacious K9 defender like Jedi, it no doubt looked like the guy remained a threat and was trying to hurt me. He sprang into action.
Jedi jumped out of the back of the car, somehow his leash got disconnected, and he made a mad dash for my (in his mind) attacker. My fellow officers no doubt can see a serious problem here; a force tool without direct control and a high likelihood for serious injury about to be applied to a handcuffed suspect.
Jedi’s partner called out to me, and I looked up just in time to see Jedi’s absolutely terrifyingly wonderful face about to close around the thigh of the person I was searching. Without thinking I put my hand out and pushed him away.
Again, my fellow officers, particularly those with K9 experience, know why this was a terrible idea. But it worked. All I could think about was saving Jedi and his partner from administrative punitive action.
I also instinctively told Jedi “Off!” because that’s what I’d say to my dogs, and I don’t even know if “off” is a command that he understood. Nonetheless Jedi moved away and within seconds was back under control of his partner and in the back of his car.
There was much debate about whether Jedi actually bit the suspect after breaking free from the car. I maintain that he did not; though he did try, I saw that he only got the person’s clothing. Confounding the issue were the multiple bite wounds the suspect had already sustained from fighting with Jedi before I ever got there. This whole ordeal of course only added to the mountain of red tape that must be navigated in the fallout.
More important to me were the implications of the event. Jedi came to my rescue. Jedi listened to my commands. And Jedi didn’t bite me when I gave him every reason and opportunity to.
His partner later told me if it were anyone else, Jedi would not have responded so favorably. If it were anyone else, I would likely be missing fingers. Maybe all those head pats and dangerous calls together counted for something after all.
Bio: My name is Anthony James Reynolds. I have been a police officer with Seattle Police Department for 12 years and an FTO for approximately seven years. I served eight years in the US Army Reserve and am pursuing degrees in Anthropology and Psychology. I have been involved in training other officers and soldiers in various capacities to include firearms, tactics, and defensive tactics.
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