A police K-9 officer was mourned Thursday after being fatally shot during a police standoff in the Hemet area that ended in deputies killing the gunman.
The incident began about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, when deputies responded to San Jacinto Street and Clark Drive (map) following a report that a wanted felon had been seen in the area, according to a Thursday news release from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
Upon arrival, the deputies were informed that the suspect was last seen in a property in the 40200 block of Clark Drive (map), the release said. A San Jacinto police officer and his K-9 partner, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois named Sultan, responded to the location and assisted in the search.
The dog alerted authorities to a crawl space underneath a home and was sent in to determine if the suspect was hiding there. Moments later, an "indistinguishable" noise was heard and the K-9 returned with a gunshot wound to his neck, the Sheriff's Department said.
He was transported to a veterinarian hospital, where he died.
"Even though he is a dog, he's a peace officer. It hits home because it could have been one of the deputies," said San Jacinto resident Maritza San Nicolas. "He took a bullet for one of the deputies."
The sheriff's SWAT team was called to the scene. During the hourslong standoff, the SWAT personnel made numerous announcements in an attempt to convince the suspect to surrender, according to the release.
The SWAT team later deployed tear gas. Shortly afterward, the man emerged from underneath the residence armed with a handgun and was shot by deputies, the Sheriff's Department said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No deputies were injured.
The deceased man's name was being withheld pending positive identification and notification of family, authorities said.
Steve Fish was among the local residents who were told to remain indoors while the barricade situation was ongoing.
"This is crazy. I've lived here since '83 and this is the first thing I've seen anywhere near like this," Fish told reporters.
In accordance with Sheriff's Department policy, the deputies involved in the shooting will be placed on administrative leave, the statement said.
Sultan, who was born in Slovakia, joined the San Jacinto Police Department in November 2013, according to a city website. He was partnered with Deputy Mark Wallace.
San Jacinto Mayor Crystal Ruiz said the dog's death was a "tragic loss for our citizens, for our family."
"He was one of us," Ruiz said.
KTLA's Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.