K-9 killed, homicide suspect critically injured during police shooting in Tacoma

TACOMA, Wash. — “Every citizen in Pierce County has lost something today. She was charged with protecting her handler and the city, and she did her job, and she will be sorely missed,” said Officer Wendy Haddow, Tacoma Police Department.

K-9 Ronja, a beautiful, strong and hardworking 2-year-old German Shepherd was shot and killed early Thursday morning while tracking down a man wanted for murder.

“They are there to protect their officer, to protect other officers, and the citizens of the whole county,” said Haddow.

Ronja’s career was short but heroic. She joined the force in April and quickly made headlines.

“In late July, she located a suspect who had burglarized the Boys and Girls Club and stole laptops from there, and she not only found the suspect,” said Haddow, “she also continued the track and located where he had stashed these laptops that are using by the kids in the community in the bushes.”

Ronja continued to be brave until her final day.

Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers created a support fund for Ronja. For more information, click here.

Tacoma police said the suspect she helped catch Thursday is connected to the killing of a 28-year-old man who was shot in the Department of Licensing parking lot on Yakima Avenue on Wednesday.

Overnight, Tacoma officers spotted the suspect’s car and chased him. The man crashed the car and started running.

Police caught up to him on 36th Street and South M Street.

“All of a sudden I hear bam, bam, bam, bam. And I go, ‘Woah.’ My wife comes upstairs later, and she says, ‘Honey, there’s been a shooting,’” said Theron, a witness.

“The dog went by, and I heard the man screaming. And after like five seconds after the man was screaming, I hear like six or seven shots go off, and then you hear some more screaming,” said Ant, a witness.

Lakewood police, which is the department investigating Thursday’s shooting, said that K-9 Ronja and the suspect were both shot and rushed to the hospital.

The suspect survived, but Ronja didn’t make it.

Ronja’s handler also had minor injuries.

The Tacoma Police Department released a statement Thursday, which said in part:

“K9 Ronja’s death is heartbreaking for her handler and our department. K9s hold a very special place in our hearts – their loyalty, bravery, and dedication is inspiring. K9 Ronja sacrificed herself to save the life of her partner and her fellow officers.

Ronja was her given name in the Czech Republic, and it means ‘bringing victory.’ To us, Ronja will forever mean bringing valor. And for that we are eternally grateful.”

Tacoma police are planning a celebration of life for Ronja. Details will be released in the coming days.

The Lakewood Police Department and the Washington State Patrol are investigating the shooting.