During the past six years, K9 Havoc has searched for illegal narcotics, hunted for evasive suspects and trained for hundreds of hours with deputies at the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
But the 7-year-old Belgian Malinois died unexpectedly two weeks ago after being struck by a car while running across Vineyard Road near the shore of Utah Lake near Vineyard Beach.
During a memorial service on Monday afternoon, K9 handler Deputy Tony Sorensen described his dog as fearless and lived up his name by “wreaking havoc” everywhere they went.
“He wasn’t only my patrol partner. He was my best friend,” he said.
According to a press release, Sorensen parked 200 feet away from Vineyard Road to allow Havoc out for a bathroom break. Havoc began to explore the area, then ignored his handler’s commands and ran toward the road.
One motorist swerved to avoid the dog, but a second car was unable to move out of the way in time. Havoc ran back to Sorensen who took the K9 to a veterinarian’s office.
The dog had no broken bones and the veterinarian started an IV. But around 10:30 a.m., “while still sitting in the veterinarian’s office, the handler said Havoc looked at him, laid his head in the handler’s lap and died,” the release said.
“Today has been the worst day of my career,” Sorensen said in a tribute to the K9. “I loved working with you every day.”
Havoc was uniquely trained in both narcotics detection and patrol after he started working at the Utah County Sheriff’s Office in 2013.
His first handler, Deputy Shawn Carter, worked with the dog for four years. He remembered Havoc was full of energy and loved playing fetch in the park or going down slides at playgrounds.
“Didn’t matter how hard he worked that day, that dog was going 100 mph everywhere he went,” Carter said. “He’s always watching my back, working hard to find the drugs or the bad guys.”
When switching handlers in 2017, Carter told Sorensen he needed to remember two things about Havoc.
“As soon as the light turns on in the house, Havoc starts barking,” Carter said. “As soon as I let him out of the kennel, he’ll knock you out of the way and full-on sprint to the truck and sit by the truck and wait for you.”
Sorensen retold several stories about Havoc at the memorial service, including one instance when Havoc ripped the stereo out of a vehicle to help deputies find a hidden cache of drugs.
During another narcotics search, the K9 was distracted by cookies on the floor of the vehicle.
“Havoc was a good boy, and he did a great job,” said K9 trainer Deputy Brett Lawrenson.
He remembered an incident during training when Havoc launched himself into a mirror after mistaking the reflection of a deputy for a hiding suspect.
“That was just one of the examples that the dog would do just about anything we asked him to do,” Lawrenson said.
Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith thanked community members for sending dozens of cards to the sheriff’s office to pay tribute to the K9.
He called the tragic incident a “squirrel moment,” when even trained dogs can’t resist some distractions.
“At the end of the day, they are still a dog,” Smith said. “Being a dog, they have those squirrel moments.”
Acquiring and training a K9 can cost several thousand dollars, and the sheriff’s office expects to begin looking for another dog to train with Sorensen in the first week of August.
“When the public thinks about K9 handlers and dogs, what you envision is Tony and Havoc,” Lawrenson said.