No felony charges in DPS dog death: KGUN9 viewers respond
Jeg the DPS drug dog had to be euthanized after his partner left him in a hot patrol car.
Notes and commentary by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
When KGUN9 broke the news last month that an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer had left his drug dog locked in a hot cruiser, the story became one of the top-commented news items of the year on KGUN9.com and on our Facebook page. After KGUN9 News learned on Tuesday that the officer was back at work and would not face felony charges over the death of the dog, viewers poured out their concerns anew.
Based on what our experts are telling us, it's probable that one of the factors playing into the decision not to prosecute was lack of wilfull intent on the part of the officer. In other words, if you make a decision to leave Fido locked in your car in the Arizona heat while you dash into the mall to run some errands, that's one thing. But if you can show that you simply forgot the dog was in the car to begin with and that your actions were not deliberate, that might be a different matter.
Prosecutors aren't discussing their reasoning. But we are told that misdemeanor charges are still a possibility, and that the officer will not be working with the K-9 unit.
When this story broke last month, many KGUN9 viewers were unforgiving. But some took note of the fact that the officer kept a night-long vigil at Jeg's side that night, and were moved by that. In the aftermath of the incident, KGUN9 also talked with a Chandler officer who had the same thing happen to him, and who told first hand of how such a horrible accident can happen, and the emotional toll it takes on the officer. Some viewers took a softer stance after hearing those follow-up stories.
Here is a sample of the latest reaction.
"MsAzSunshine" (via KGUN9.com): "He should never again be allowed to have another dog by his side. Negligence that result in a working dog's death should NEVER be considered a misdemeanor."
"toolmanaz68" (via KGUN9.com): "So much for a clean justice system in Tucson. This cop should've been arrested and indicted immediately, as any of us would've been. Another example of unequal justice...."
"Mesopotamian Guy" (via Facebook): "A horrible accident, not done with bad intentions I am sure! We feel bad for what happened to the animal, but let's not get carried away with calling for the hanging of this officer. Accidents happen. Nothing will bring back the dog. I would not want to be an officer in this Gang, Drug, Drunk, Pot smoking infested town, so let's not execute this officer for something like this! Get a hold of your emotions, you people seem to care more about animals than you do about your own kids! What a sad situation this society is in!"
Scott Bieber (via Facebook): "He should pay for the training of a new dog and be stuck behind a desk for a year."
Matt Pimple (via Facebook): "This dog gets no justice, they should let everyone off the hook that does this now. Way to set an example...."
Stephanie MacLean Graves (via Facebook): "I have known K9 officers in my time, and trust me this guy is going through hell. These dogs are family!"
Scott Christie (via Facebook): "Stephanie, he did not love the dog enough to protect him."
Colleen Mayo Friedman (via Facebook): "This k9 is considered a police officer. His partner should be facing same consequences that he would had his actions directly lead to the death of a 2 legged partner. This is not justice."
Cyndie Michelle Nelson (via Facebook): "Does it surprise me? No. But it makes me sad. I'm sure he feels badly, but so do a lot of people who make mistakes and end up being charged. Fact is, he chose to become a DPS officer and then he chose to take on the responsibility of a K9 partner. If he couldn't handle doing his job AND keeping his K9 partner alive perhaps he shouldn't have become part of the K9 unit."
Debi Gustafson (via Facebook0: "Sadly a horrible accident happened and a K9 officer was lost. This officer was called to an emergency while doing his job and a set of circumstances occurred with a horrible outcome. HUGE difference between being forgetful and being very distracted by an EMERGENCY! If you were in a life-threatening situation you would want emergency services to show up ASAP, right??? DPS and TPD do their best with their limited funds and staffing availability. I am sure this officer is suffering from his mistake each and every day. This officer lost not just a partner, but also a family member. Can each of you complainers state that you have never had a lapse in judgment and made an error?"
Jodi Hughes (via Facebook): "For all of the people saying that this officer is going through enough, knowing what he did: GOOD! Would you be saying the same thing if it was a 9 month old baby? NO. So it's no different, and he SHOULD feel terrible for the rest of his life. And then some."
James Godin (via Facebook): "As you can see on the news this is a non story. Instead we hear about phone apps and other nonsense. This officer is being protected by his own.... We all knew the outcome didn't we? BUT if you were to take the attitude of Channel 9 everything is going to be OK SINCE DWTS IS COMING ON FOR ANOTHER SEASON. Which seems to be the only thing anyone there seems to have an opinion on. This should have been the TOP story and there should have been outrage. You didn't INVESTIGATE anything; you merely reported what happened."
In response to that last comment -- James, I'm not following your logic here. KGUN9 reported this story aggressively the day it happened. We aired several follow ups reports in the days following. We were the only news outlet to tell you that DPS had a safety device in the car designed to prevent such accidents, that somehow failed to prevent this one (and why that was the case, DPS isn't saying, and so far it has not responded to 9 On Your Side's public records requests). Yesterday we were one of only two news outlets in the state to tell you the outcome of this case. We put a reporter on the story and featured the report prominently in our 10pm newscast last night. Why you would feel that this is evidence that we consider this to be a "non story" escapes me. However, it's not our role to express outrage. Nor would that be proper. As journalists, we have to explore all sides, including the officer's, even though he has not been available to tell it in person. Forming opinions and expressing anger is your role. You're welcome to your opinion, but I respectfully suggest you have chosen the wrong target for your anger in this particular instance.
We do welcome viewer feedback - and as you can see, occasionally we respond to explain why we do what we do. Share your comments by posting them at the bottom of any story on KGUN9.com, or by logging on to our KGUN9 Facebook page.