Police K-9, gunman injured in shootout in southern Utah

SANTA CLARA, Washington County — A police K-9 attempting to apprehend a carjacking suspect was shot late Tuesday and the alleged gunman injured in a shootout in southern Utah.

Just before 10 p.m., police were called to the area of 400 N. Bluff St. where a man was “causing a disturbance” and later “physically assaulted a citizen and stole his truck,” according to a prepared statement from the Washington County Attorney’s Office.

The truck owner told officers that he had an assault rifle and ammunition in his truck. St. George police briefly chased the truck but terminated the pursuit for safety reasons. A few minutes later, the truck crashed in the area of 2500 Santa Clara Drive.

Officers found the man sitting in the driver’s seat, refusing to get out of the truck, according to the attorney’s office.

“While negotiations were underway, Washington County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer Tess, a 7-year-old female Malinois, arrived at the scene. After about 30 minutes, the suspect opened the door of the truck. The K-9 jumped into the cab. Almost immediately, the suspect fired shots from a handgun, striking the K-9 in the head,” according to the attorney’s office.

Officers from St. George and the Santa Clara Police Department opened fire, striking the man several times.

The man, whose name was not released, was taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center for surgery, according to the attorney’s office, which also stated that as of 10:45 a.m., “his condition is unknown.”

Tess was first taken to a veterinarian in Washington County. It was determined that the “bullet entered her mouth and exited the area of her neck,” according to the sheriff’s office.

“The local veterinary doctor was able to intervene and stop the bleeding. It was quickly determined that Tess required equipment that was not locally available,” the sheriff’s office said in a prepared statement.

Fearing that a long car ride to Las Vegas would have a negative affect on Tess, the sheriff’s office asked Life Flight if it’d be willing to fly the K-9 to Las Vegas using a medical helicopter. The crew agreed.

The sheriff’s office then contacted authorities in Las Vegas.

“In another gracious act, their K-9 unit agreed to shut down a busy Las Vegas intersection so the helicopter could land directly in front of the clinic,” according to the sheriff’s office.

About midmorning, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced that Tess was stable. By Wednesday afternoon, the sheriff’s office twetted that Tess was “happy to be headed home.”

The sheriff’s office said it was thankful for the outpouring of support for Tess in both Utah and Las Vegas.

Tess has served with Washington County for four years.

She is the second police K-9 shot in Utah this summer while trying to apprehend a suspect.

In July, one of the Unified Police Department’s most acclaimed veteran K-9s was shot and killed while helping the U.S. Marshals Service. 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.