Florida police dog 'murdered' in line of duty saved officers' lives, according to authorities

'Our K-9 Max died so no Lake Wales police officers would,' the Polk County Sheriff says

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A Florida K-9 that was shot and killed while apprehending a suspect is being remembered as a hero who protected officers from losing their own lives. 

"It crushes you because that K-9 died so the police officers wouldn't. He was the tip of the spear," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said of the killing. "What we lost today was one of our partners. Our K-9 Max died so no Lake Wales police officers would."

The Lake Wales Police Department responded to a 911 call at around 5 a.m. local time on Wednesday from a woman who said she was pulled from her car by a suspect identified as 57-year-old convicted felon Earnest Borders. The suspect beat her face on the concrete, choked her and shot a firearm repeatedly before fleeing, according to Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez. 

Borders returned to the area soon after fleeing, and police attempted to apprehend him, Fox 13 reported. The suspect fled along train tracks to a wooded area. The Polk County Sheriff’s office assisted the police department with setting up a perimeter in the area before K-9 Max and his handler Officer Jared Joyner took off into the woods to track Borders. 

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Earnest Borders, left, the suspect who fatally shot a police K-9 in Florida; Max, the police K-9 of the Lake Wales Police Department in Florida.

Earnest Borders, left, the suspect who fatally shot a police K-9 in Florida; Max, the police K-9 of the Lake Wales Police Department in Florida. (Florida  Department of Corrections/Lake Wales Police Dept)

Max was able to apprehend Borders by the ankle, Velasquez said, but the suspect pulled out a gun and fatally shot the K-9. 

"He was very, very well-trained, he performed exactly as he was supposed to," Velasquez said of Max, according to Fox 13. "He ultimately saved the lives of police officers this morning. I fully, wholeheartedly believe that we would be speaking about dead police officers had that K-9 not been in service this morning." 

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The police chief added that Officer Joyner is "extremely distraught" by the K-9’s death and that he has "lost a part of his family." Max was a Belgian Malinois from The Netherlands who had been on the force since 2016. 

Two police officers, including Joyner, opened fire on Borders when he shot at Max. The suspect was left critically injured before soon dying. 

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"The suspect flat, completely murdered our K-9. Pulled the handgun out and pulled the trigger," Velasquez said. "He made that choice and that's why he's dead today."

A memorial photo of fallen Lake Wales Police K-9 Max, who was killed in the line of duty on Wednesday while apprehending a suspect.

A memorial photo of fallen Lake Wales Police K-9 Max, who was killed in the line of duty on Wednesday while apprehending a suspect. (Lake Wales Police Dept. Facebook)

Borders had 18 prior felony convictions including battery, assault, and grand theft charges, according to investigators, Fox 13 reported. He had served three different sentences at the Florida State Prison.

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A procession for Max was held on Wednesday as his body was transported to the medical examiner's office.