Originally published October 2012
Former Geneva, Ala., police officer Joshua Ray Waller, 32, pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty and second-degree perjury in the accidental April 2011 death of his K9 partner Officer Sassy, whom he left in a hot car. Sassy had been his partner for less than a month when he reported her missing, saying he thought that she had been stolen. Investigators believe Sassy’s death was truly an accident, but instead of coming clean, Waller tried to cover it up. He perjured himself in court during a custody hearing in which he was asked about Sassy and replied that he had no knowledge of what had happened to her, and that he had had no part in it. Waller entered a blind plea in a deal, which gives the judge the power to determine his sentence. Waller has also agreed to pay $7,400 in restitution to the department for the cost of replacing the dog. Waller is scheduled to be sentenced in November. Given that he perjured himself, there is little chance that he will be able to work in law enforcement ever again.
Officer Brian Mathis of Des Moines, Ia., received a three-day suspension without pay after he confessed to accidentally leaving his K9 partner to die in a hot car in August. K9 Officer Harley, who had worked with police for seven years, died when the temperature in the cruiser soared to over 100 degrees. In August police spokesman Sgt. Christopher Scott reportedly said, “Officer Mathis, not only did he work with this dog, but he took this dog home. They were together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During the day, it was a work partner. At night, it was a family member.” On October 9, Scott told reporters that Mathis would not be given a canine partner again. He added that the dog’s death was a tragedy to the department, and that they are looking at the possibility of installing a safety feature in police cars that would warn officers when temperatures in their vehicle become unsafe.
GBI is still investigating the September 2012 death of a K9 that was left in a hot vehicle by an officer with police in Warwick, Ga. According to Lt. Thomas Frye, his partner, K9 Officer Sasha, was afraid of lighting, and opened up the cruiser during a storm, got inside and couldn’t get out. He said it happened over the weekend while he was out of town, and that had left his patrol car unsecured in the yard with the dog. Evidence in the cruiser shows that Sasha did not go down quietly, and in her suffering, valiantly attempted to free herself leaving bite marks and scratches on the driver’s seat, completely tearing away the leather in places, scratching the windows and all around the doors, chewing driver’s side seat belt, breaking the printer box, ripping off the passenger-side visor and the rear-view mirror. Frye saved the department the trouble of firing him by resigning. Representatives from the Georgia Humane Society are planning to have the dog’s body exhumed from Fry’s yard for autopsy, in conjunction with an attempt to have felony animal cruelty charges brought against Frye.