MILLCREEK — One of the Unified Police Department's most acclaimed, veteran K-9s was shot and killed early Thursday while helping the U.S. Marshals Service take a violent fugitive into custody.
Dingo, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, was attempting to grab hold of Torey Chase Massey, 28, so marshals could arrest him when Massey pulled out a gun and fired multiple shots, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said.
Paramedics with the U.S. Marshals Service's Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team immediately started giving aid to Dingo, who was then taken to a local veterinarian clinic but died from his injuries.
Winder said Dingo's partner, Unified Police Sgt. Chad Reyes, "is devastated. His family is devastated. The K-9 unit is devastated."
"We will treat this as we would any other fallen member," the sheriff said.
U.S. marshals were looking Wednesday night into Thursday morning for Massey, a parole fugitive wanted for investigation of theft, robbery and aggravated assault, and who is believed to have led the Metro Gang Unit on a chase last week, according to Unified police.
Massey was spotted about 1 a.m. in the Millcreek area, Winder said. He again fled from officers, who attempted to use spike strips to flatten his vehicle's tires.
Massey's disabled vehicle came to a stop near Brickyard Plaza at 3300 South and 1100 East, where he got out of the vehicle and ran.
At that point, Dingo was released to chase Massey down.
As Dingo and Massey got to the top of a hill, there was a struggle, both fell over, and multiple gunshots were heard.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Derryl Spencer said it was a "highly chaotic situation" and that Massey was "highly under the influence of some sort of substance" at the time.
After the shots were fired, Massey dropped his gun and ran again, making it a couple hundred more yards before being arrested. A knife was also recovered from Massey, Winder said.
The fugitive suffered minor injuries, most likely from being tackled, Winder said. But Massey did not appear to have suffered any bite marks. The sheriff said it's possible that Dingo grabbed Massey's clothing, which ripped as the man broke away, allowing him to grab his gun.
All dogs in the Unified Police Department's K-9 unit have bulletproof vests issued to them. Winder said Dingo was not wearing his vest Wednesday night, but the sheriff wasn't sure Thursday whether that would have made a difference.
Sometimes on long stakeouts when the weather is hot, a K-9 handler will keep the vest off the dog to prevent the animal from becoming overheated.
The bond between a police K-9 and its handler is unique, Winder said. The two not only partner at work, but they also go home together at the end of the day and typically spend more time together than the average pet owner.
After Dingo was taken to a local clinic, other K-9 units from across the valley also showed up to honor him.
Tributes filled social media as word spread of Dingo's death.
"Saddened to hear of the K-9 shooting in Millcreek early this morning. As we mourn Dingo, our hearts go out to Sgt. Chad Reyes," Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted Thursday morning.
"My heart goes out to (Unified police) officer Reyes on the loss of his partner, Dingo. K-9 units help keep officers (and) the community safe," Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams tweeted.
"It is not just those with 2 legs who are born with a soul that has courage to wear the badge. RIP UPDSL K-9 Dingo," West Valley police tweeted.
"Our love and support go out to all who loved this brave hero K-9 Dingo. May we never forget his sacrifice," the Davis County Sheriff's Office posted on Twitter.
Winder called Dingo “one of our most effective K-9s." He was a dual-purpose dog and could be used for finding drugs and chasing down bad guys, the sheriff said.
Dingo, who served with the department for five years, was not only a decorated service dog but also a cancer survivor. Winder said the dog had recently returned to duty after beating cancer. He also noted that Dingo was getting ready for retirement as Reyes was in the process of being promoted.
The department's K-9 unit and its six patrol dogs have been placed on leave as they mourn Dingo's loss, Winder said. Surrounding agencies will assist with K-9 help until they return.
When it is time to move Dingo to his final resting place, he will be given a police escort, and Winder anticipates a service so both law enforcers and the public can pay their respects.
Donations for Dingo can be made at Mountain American Credit Union to "Friends for UPD K-9" or "Dingo."
Massey now faces potential new federal firearms charges in addition to a state law that specifically deals with service animals killed in the line of duty.
Massey was convicted of theft by receiving stolen property in 2016 and was sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. That sentence was to run concurrent with a 2015 conviction of forgery, for which he was sentenced to up to five years in prison, according to state court records.
In 2007, Massey stabbed another man in the torso during an argument in West Jordan. He was originally charged with attempted murder, but after agreeing to a plea deal, he was convicted of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.
Massey was sentenced to up to five years in prison on each charge, which were ordered to run consecutively, according to court records. Those sentences were also ordered to run consecutively with his conviction on robbery and fleeing from police earlier that same year, when he received probation and a year in jail.
Massey was paroled from prison in 2011. But it was the start of several return trips and releases on probation, and new convictions that have continued up until Thursday’s arrest.
Prior to Dingo, the most recent K-9 killed in the line of duty in Utah was also from the Unified Police Department — just last year.
In April 2016, Aldo, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, was shot and later died while trying to take a suspected gunman into custody.
David Shane Anderson, 36, of West Jordan, also died in the ensuing shootout and four-hour standoff with police. Anderson's family later publicly apologized to Unified police, and in Anderson's obituary, the family asked that donations be made to the Friends for Unified Police K9 nonprofit group in lieu of flowers.