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El Mirage police K-9 shot, killed by suspect during officer-involved shooting

Posted: 6:14 PM, Nov 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-25 20:19:27-05
Officer-involved shooting in El Mirage 11-22-19
K9 Officer Koki
Joe Ruelas

EL MIRAGE, AZ — El Mirage police say a suspect, who allegedly killed a K-9 Officer on Friday night, has died after taking his own life.

In a post on the El Mirage Police Department's Facebook page, Chief Paul Marzocca wrote, "Tonight we had a very serious situation in our city in which our K-9 Koki was killed protecting his fellow officers. I want you to know the community is safe and the suspect is no longer a threat."

In a Saturday evening update, police said the incident started around 5:20 p.m. when officers were attempting to arrest a suspect, later identified as 38-year-old Joe Ruelas, wanted for aggravated assault charges near Grand Avenue and Acoma Drive. Ruelas reportedly ran from officers while holding a handgun, police said.

Joe Ruelas
Joe Ruelas

Officers gave chase, but fearing for the safety of the public and officers, Koki's handler sent him to apprehend Ruelas, who turned and shot Koki.

Two El Mirage police officers returned gunfire at Ruelas who ran from the scene. El Mirage police officers, troopers, deputies, and officers from numerous agencies converged on a home but found Ruelas had taken his own life.

The El Mirage Police Department announced K-9 Koki's passing on Facebook, writing, "It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of our K-9 Koki, who was killed in the line of duty tonight protecting other officers from harm. He will be greatly missed."

Officer Jason Chambers trains K-9s throughout the valley. He trained Koki since he was a pup.

Here's what he told ABC15 about Koki and his handler Officer Doug Jones:

"Just a really good down to earth guy, really good dog team. Doug and Koki always excelled.”

"Koki was pretty special coming out of that litter,” he added. “That litter had 3 dogs that are currently in the Valley right now."

"I think the community respects and understands what these dogs mean to us. They really enjoy what they are doing. They are well trained, well prepared and they just love their jobs they don't know any different.”

El Mirage Police K-9 Koki
El Mirage Police K-9 Koki during training

Police say no officers were injured during the incident aside from Koki.

"The loss of Koki is no different than the loss of a Police Officer. Today the El Mirage Police Department mourns Koki, we lost a brother last night," El Mirage Police Chief Paul Marzocca said.

An investigation is ongoing.