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Panic at the mall: Police dog killed as cops and a gang member trade fire near food court

Palm Beach County Sheriff K-9 officer Cigo. (Palm Beach County Sheriff/Facebook)
December 26, 2018

A shootout at a South Florida mall on Christmas Eve sent panicked shoppers hiding under tables, killed a police dog and wounded a reputed gang member.

The shootout happened just outside The Mall at Wellington Green on Monday evening, as last-minute shoppers scurried in and out.

On Tuesday, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office took to social media to remember K-9 Cigo, who was shot as he pursued a suspect.

“He gave his life to save others. He’s a good boy and he will never be forgotten. Rest In Peace #K9Cigo,” the department tweeted Christmas Day.

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Deputies swarmed the mall around 5 p.m. Monday when they got a tip that a person wanted for an attempted murder was there.

They ended up trading fire with the suspect, a known member of the Latin Kings gang, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff. Cigo was shot and died at an animal hospital. The suspect was shot and wounded.

One of the suspects at the mall was wanted in an attempted murder that happened a couple weeks ago at a Palm Beach County bar, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said.

The person, who was not identified, was with someone else and met up with a third person.

Deputies secured an area of the parking lot outside the mall, 10300 Forest Hill Blvd., and waited for them to come out.

“The reason we want to get them is they are dangerous people,” Bradshaw said.

When they moved in to confront the group, the third person who they had met up with took off running, Bradshaw said. Officers were able to take the other two — one of whom was the suspect in the attempted murder — into custody.

Meanwhile, Cigo pursued the man on the run.

“He turned, shot the dog, the dog was still able make it to him,” Bradshaw said. “In the meantime, he’s firing back at the deputies.”

The shooting suspect was identified by WPEC-Channel 12 as Giovany Ramos Alvarez.

The department said that he shot at deputies and struck a K-9. Deputies returned fire and hit the suspect, the department said.

“He is at the hospital,” Bradshaw said Monday night. “He is not deceased yet. He is pretty well wounded.”

The K-9 was taken to the veterinarian emergency center, but did not make it through surgery.

“The dog is deceased, but he did his job,” Bradshaw said. “Saved those deputies’ lives.”

The mall was shut down for several hours for the investigation.

Panicked people in the food court hid under tables and ducked behind fast-food counters. according to the Palm Beach Post.

Shopper Carlos Hernandez was in Macy’s when he heard two bangs “loud and clear,” and helped seven people hide in a closet, the Post reported.

“It was unexpected, especially at the mall,” he said. “It was a little scary for me.”

The Mall at Wellington Green is about 13 miles west of President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion Mar-a-Lago. The sprawling suburban mall sits amid suburban gated communities and is ringed by chain restaurants.

“We got two very dangerous people off the street,” Bradshaw said. “Unfortunately it took the life of one of our dogs.”

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© 2018 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.