LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) – Law enforcement officials in Polk County remembered an egg-eating, size-defying and life-saving K-9 at a memorial fit for a hero Tuesday morning.
K-9 Max was shot and killed in the line of duty Aug. 3 by a domestic violence suspect, according to police.
“Each of the officers involved in that search are here today and alive because of Max,” said Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez.
Law enforcement members from several agencies, including the Lake Wales Police Department and Polk County Sheriff’s Office, gathered at HighPoint Church to remember Max.
Dozens of K-9 teams lined up as Max’s handler, Officer Jared Joyner, and his family followed the urn containing the K-9’s remains out of the church.
“We’ll always be grateful for K-9 Officer Max for his service, for the smiles he brought, for being a part of the Lake Wales Police Department and for ultimately giving his life to protect his very best friend,” said Chief Velasquez.
Max first arrived in Lake Wales in late 2015 from Southern Coast K-9 Inc.
“They said he was small, reminded them of a water spider,” said Chief Velasquez.
“Max, who was by far the smallest dog in the school, showed no challenge was too great or obstacle too difficult to defeat. Truly – Max was fearless,” said Polk County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kenny Hill, who was involved in Max’s training.
Max lived and worked with Officer Jared Joyner for the next nearly seven years.
At home, he would sneakily eat cat food and eggs from the chicken coop.
“He probably just thought they were tennis balls with tasty fillings,” said Chief Velasquez.
Max was also a highly qualified K-9.
According to Chief Velasquez, Max underwent approximately 2,000 hours of training. He had 516 documented deployments, including to locate missing children, elderly people, building and drug searches, warrant arrests, wanted person searches and community demonstrations.
Officer Joyner and K-9 Max apprehended 83 people and seized countless amounts of drugs.
“Max had the funniest personality I’ve ever seen in a K-9. But Max had a mission. He was the eyes and the ears and the nose for Jared,” said Sgt. Dale Hampton with the Lake Wales Police Department.
Officer Joyner and K-9 Max’s shift that began last Tuesday evening was largely uneventful until reports of a shooting Wednesday morning.
A suspect, Earnest Borders, had reportedly assaulted a woman and fired a weapon outside an apartment complex, according to officials.
“Officer Joyner and Max had nearly made it home but Jared knew he might be needed so he turned around and headed to the scene,” said Chief Velasquez.
It was Max who located Borders in the woods. Police said Max had Borders by the foot and that Borders fatally shot him.
Borders died too, when officers returned fire.
“I feel for Jared and his family. I feel for the officers that were on the scene that day. Just because the service is over, this is obviously not over. There’s emotions to deal with for a long time,” said Deputy Chief David Black.