Utah K9 community mourns loss of officer ‘Dingo’

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah K9 community is mourning the loss of a Unified Police Belgian Malinois, who was shot and killed by a wanted fugitive as the dog chased the fugitive down.

The U.S. Marshals said they quickly captured 28-year old Torey Massey, and he’s now headed back to prison.

“Dingo was probably one of our most effective K9s,” Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said in a Thursday morning press conference.

Derryl Spencer, Deputy U.S. Marshal, said he was, “deeply saddened by loss of Dingo.”

“I can’t imagine what would have happened had we not had the dog there to help us get that guy in custody,” he said.

No one understands that more than Havoc K9, a nonprofit dedicated to training police dogs just like Dingo, which they then donate to police agencies in Utah and around the country.

“They are officers in every sense of the word,” Executive Director Ricki Draper said of the dogs they train.

On Thursday evening, a 5-month-old pup named Jarvi followed her around their facility.

“She'll be an explosive detection dog,” Draper explained.

Dogs like Jarvi spend a year to a year and a half training in their program. She said they set the foundation for socialization, scent and detection work, and apprehension skills, before each K9 transitions to a department.

Apprehension work, also known as bite work, is when a dog chases a suspect down—like what Dingo was doing when he was shot.

“They can, a lot of times, gain compliance over that person a lot faster than an officer can, just simply by their presence,” Draper said. “That keeps the officer safe.”

Draper said her heart sank after learning about Dingo’s death.

“It just is devastating to hear that we've lost an officer in such a senseless way,” she said.

And not just for the department. Draper said she witnesses the bonds developed between a K9 and their handler. She also said many of these dogs are loved by the officer’s entire family.

"It's not just a tool for a department to hang up like a duty belt at the end of the day," she said. "They come in, they sit on the couch with the family, they play with the kids a lot of times. You just cannot replace a dog like that.”

In Dingo’s case, Sheriff Winder said the K9’s handler Sergeant Chad Reyes was devastated and is now taking time off after Dingo’s death.

Sgt. Reyes worked with Dingo his entire career, and Unified Police say the 7-year-old Malinois was close to retiring from service.

In his final moments, Dingo did what his life’s work focused on: Protecting and serving his community, and keeping his officer safe.

“I am confident this individual would have used his firearm against one of our human members,” Sheriff Winder said, about Massey’s violence. “Dingo, from my standpoint, certainly saved a life, if not multiple lives.”

Winder said they are now orchestrating a funeral service to honor Dingo’s dedication and allow the community to grieve with them.