A wanted felon who killed a police dog was shot dead by California police late Wednesday when he emerged from a house he was barricaded in brandishing a handgun, authorities said.
The identity of the suspect was not released, but he had been in a standoff with police at the Riverside County residence for hours. Authorities sent the K-9 "Sultan" into the residence through a small crawlspace, and he came out with unspecified injuries. Sultan died at the scene.
The dog, a Belgian Malinois-German shepherd mix, belonged to the San Jacinto Police Department, which is run via contract by the Sheriff's Department. The dog was from Slovakia and had been patrolling since November 2013.
"There is a very close bond between K-9 and the deputy he's assigned to," Sgt. Mike Manning told The Riverside Press-Enterprise. "It's more than property or a tool. It's a heartfelt bond between the dog and the handler."
The San Jacinto Police Department's Facebook page featured a photo of a dog's silhouette with a blue stripe through the center, honoring the fallen dog. Sultan's death marks the first time a police dog was killed at the department.
"We've lost a family member, we've lost one of our own," San Jacinto Mayor Crystal Ruiz told NBCLosAngeles.com. "It's heartbreaking and it's scary to think people would do something like this."
He called the dog an "amazing officer" and promised that Sultan will be honored "as one of San Jacinto's finest, because that's what he was."
Law enforcement agencies across the country protect their dogs. A Pittsburgh man convicted of fatally stabbing a police dog in December prompted the city's Legislature to pass "Rocco's Law," which upped the crime of harming or torturing a police animal from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony.
Sultan was loved by the community. Within hours after police announced his death on Facebook, there were more than 150 comments on its Facebook page. One woman remembered her children telling him he was a good dog when their paths would cross in town. Others changed their Facebook photo to match the police department's silhouette.
The tense standoff began at about 2:30 p.m. Police were searching for the suspect, who had an outstanding arrest warrant, MyValleyNews.com reported. Several hours later, a SWAT team and the suspect were in a barricaded standoff in the Hemet area.
The Riverside Sheriff's Office tweeted out at about midnight that the suspect was killed. No deputies were injured in the shooting. Authorities said they would be at the scene for the next several hours following the shooting.