LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) — A Lake Wales police K-9 was shot and killed Wednesday morning, according to a news release from the Lake Wales Police Department.
Officers said the incident began around 5 a.m. when a woman called 911 to report that a man, later identified as 57-year-old Earnest Borders, had dragged her out of a car, choked her, hit her head on the concrete, and fired a gun multiple times outside her apartment.
A resident told News Channel 8 that she and her grandson were shot at.
“I’ve been up here for about 37 years and this is the first time I’ve ever been scared to come out the door,” The neighbor said. “You be scared to come out here, you’d be scared to sit out on the porch.”
By the time officers arrived at the scene, Borders fled from the area. Authorities said they found nine shell casings where the victim first reported Borders had fired the gun.
Sometime later, officers spotted Borders returning to the scene before he fled into a wooded area to hide. That’s when K-9 Officer Jared Joyner and his K-9 partner, Max, searched the area along with other officers.
Police said K-9 Max found Borders hiding in a densely wooded area. When Borders refused to show his hands, officers said he “shot and murdered K-9 Max” with a stolen Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun.
“The officers defended themselves by returning fire at Borders, who was still armed,” the news release said.
The officers tried to save Borders, but he was ultimately pronounced dead at a local hospital.
K-9 Max died as a result of his injuries at the scene. He was transported to the Medical Examiner’s office for a necropsy.
Officers said Border’s criminal history includes violent crimes with 24 prior felonies, 4 prior misdemeanors, and 18 felony convictions. He has been sentenced to Florida State Prison three times.
Hours after the incident The Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Lake Wales police held a procession to transport the K9 to the medical examiner’s office.
Max’s handler, Officer Jared Joyner, lead the procession with his fallen partner in his patrol car. According to a post on the Lake Wales Police Department Facebook page, Max, who is a Belgian Malinois, was 7 years old. He joined the police department in December 2015.
Officer Joyner is an 11-year veteran of LWPD.
“K-9 officer Joyner lost a part of his family today,” Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez said. “Our K-9 partners live with and stay with the officers at their homes. They’re part of their family.”
“It crushes you because that K-9 died so the police officers wouldn’t,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “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.”
The officers who shot and killed Borders have been placed on administrative leave. Standard protocol for officer-involved shootings includes four investigations from four different agencies: The Lake Wales Police Department, The Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office and the 10th District Medical Examiner.