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Cedar City police K-9 recovering after being 'slammed'

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 6:48 p.m. MDT

CEDAR CITY — A police K-9 injured while trying to apprehend a suicidal man underwent surgery over the weekend.

Pajko, a 3-year-old Belgian malinois, had surgery on Saturday to repair a herniated disk in his neck. He could be released from the hospital on Tuesday if all goes well, according to police. That will be followed by several weeks of rehab.

On Thursday, Cedar City police responded to a report of a suicidal man. Officers found Merrill Orlando Rust's vehicle near the water tank off Nichols Canyon Road in Cedar City. As officers arrived in the area, Rust allegedly fired a shot into the air.

The alleged gunman ran further up the hill and more officers, including a SWAT team, were called out. Relatives told police that Rust had experienced "suicidal and homicidal thoughts in the past," according to the charges.

Officers tried to wait Rust out. After several hours when it got dark, he walked back down the hillside and eventually threw his rifle down, but continued walking away from officers against their commands, according to court records. That's when officers deployed Pajko.

The police K-9 knocked Rust down from behind. But then Rust "turned and slammed on top of Pajko," causing extreme injury, the charges state. The dog was not able to walk.

Rust was arrested and charged Friday in 5th District Court with marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, causing injury to a police service animal and failing to stop at the command of a police officer. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 22.

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