Police dog killed, suspect shot outside Wellington mall, deputies say

'It was chaos,' store owner says of panicked shoppers

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

WELLINGTON, Fla. - A police dog was killed and a man suspected of attempted murder was wounded Monday in a shootout outside the Mall at Wellington Green in Palm Beach County, authorities said. The shooting caused panic among shoppers buying last-minute Christmas gifts.

Teri Barbera, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, said deputies were tracking 28-year-old Giovany Ramos Alvarez and 19-year-old Justin Vazquez, known members of the Latin Kings gang who are accused of first-degree attempted murder and robbery. When Alvarez, Vazquez and another man left the mall around 5 p.m. deputies moved in to make an arrest, Barbera said.  

Alvarez tried to flee and shot at deputies, wounding the dog, a 3-year-old German shepherd named Cigo, Barbera said. Deputies returned fired and shot Alvarez. Paramedics transported him to a local hospital, where he is listed in serious condition.

Cigo later died at a veterinarian emergency center.

Cigo, a K9 partner with the Palm Beach County Sherrif's Office, was shot and killed Monday.

Giovany Ramos Alvarez (left) -- seen here in an earlier booking photo -- and Justin Vazquez were wanted for attempted murder.

Vazquez, of Lake Worth, and the other man, who was not identified, were detained without incident, deputies said. No one else was hurt, deputies said.

"As it stands right now, we’ve got two very dangerous people off the street," Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said. "Unfortunately, it took the life of one of our dogs, but he did his job. He saved the lives of the deputies."

According to Vazquez's arrest report, he and Alvarez shot and robbed a man outside a West Palm Beach hookah lounge on Dec. 7. Vazquez is currently being held without bond at the Main Detention Center in West Palm Beach.

Michelle Avery said she works at the Apricot Lane boutique and heard gunshots about 5:45 p.m.

"I was taking our garbage out and I heard a boom," Avery said. "I just started screaming into my store -- because I have young girl that works in there -- for her to get to the back of the store."

She said she ran to the back and locked herself and her employees inside, but shoppers quickly started banging on the glass to get in. 

"Everyone was running around like crazy. Some people just hit the ground," Avery said.

She said she let several shoppers into the store, where they hid in the fitting rooms.

"It was chaos," Avery said. "It was like the things you see on TV, but you think you'll never be subject to this kind of situation."

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