A Florida sheriff's K-9 officer was shot and killed in the line of duty Christmas Eve while helping officers take down a suspect, USA Today reports. The encounter began at a mall in Wellington, Fla., when officers confronted two men wanted for attempted murder and armed robbery. Justin Vazquez, 19, let himself be arrested outside, while 28-year-old Giovany Ramos Alvarez—a member of the Latin Kings Gang, per the Palm Beach Post—took off with officer K-9 Cigo in hot pursuit. Exchanging fire with officers in the parking lot, Alvarez struck the canine. "He turned, shot the dog, the dog was still able make it to him," Sheriff Ric Bradshaw tells the Miami Herald. "In the meantime, he's firing back at the deputies."
As shoppers inside The Mall at Wellington Green panicked, abandoning bags and jumping counters, officers apprehended Alvarez. The wounded suspect was hospitalized in serious condition, but Cigo wasn't so lucky—declared dead at an animal hospital. Now the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office is mourning its loss: "The pain felt by #K9Cigo’s handler/partner is strong," reads a department tweet. "Our prayers are with him tonight." Reads another: "He's a good boy and he will never be forgotten. Rest In Peace #K9Cigo." The suspects were wanted in a shooting outside a West Palm Beach bar that left a man critically hurt. No one else was injured in the arrest. (Police say a man may have had help killing his fiancee.)