An agency may be investigating police dog’s death
By John Estridge, Editor
On New Year's Day, Laurel Police Department's K-9 Officer Blade passed.
What caused Blade's death is now an investigation by a state police agency. According to information discussed at a Laurel Town Council (LTC) meeting, the Indiana State Police has Blade's body and a necropsy has or is going to be performed.
However, Sgt. Steve Wheeles with the ISP said the ISP is not involved in the matter. He said to check with the Indiana Conservation Officers.
Conservation Officers did not respond to questions concerning the investigation.
Saturday morning Laurel residents numbering about three times the number of chairs available descended on the monthly LTC meeting to discuss Blade's death.
Clint Ellis, Blade’s handler, was a volunteer deputy marshal for the town.
Ellis has been fired from the Laurel Police Department. Officials said he was fired for insubordination and lying about where Blade's body was.
On the Laurel Town Police Facebook page, Town Marshal Brad Spurlock said the cause of Blade's death is a condition called Bloat.
Ellis' girlfriend, Mallory Boone, is the LTC vice president. She said the 3-year-old Dutch shepherd started showing signs of feeling bad the previous day, New Year's Eve. Boone said Dr. Keaffaber of Connersville was Blade's vet.
“The reason he was not taken to the vet is because, other than the fact he had no energy, he liked to run around, he was a hyper dog, the day we noticed something might be off with him which was New Year's Eve when he was taken outside,” Boone said. “I informed Clint 'he doesn't seem right today. He's kind of slow today.' He said 'Keep an eye on him.'
“He had no diarrhea,” she continued. “He had no vomiting. He was eating. He was drinking. He was not whining. He was not barking. He was not obviously in distress. So we decided to keep an eye on him because just like people, dogs have bad days, too. They're not running around. Diablo (retired K-9) has done the same thing.”
Boone said when Diablo had similar symptoms a year ago, they took him to the vet and he had a skin rash. With Blade, Boone reiterated there were no obvious signs of sickness. He was just lethargic and laying around. According to Boone, there was no change in Blade's condition over the entire New Year's Eve day. She said the dog both ate and drank as a normal dog would.
“Clint slept next to his cage New Year's Eve night into the next day,” Boone said.
When many people in the large crowd expressed disbelief of that last statement, Boone responded.
“You can believe what you want,” Boone said. “This happened in my home. I ought to know what I'm talking about.”
Boone said Diablo is now being cared for by Chris Laird, a former Laurel Police Officer who has also been a K-9 officer.
Boone said they should have taken Blade to a vet, but they did not believe the situation was that critical.
“If you want to say I'm guilty of something or Clint is guilty of something, it is not realizing that Blade was sicker than he actually was,” Boone said. “That's unfortunate. We did feel guilty about it. Clint loved that dog.”
Boone said after Blade's death, they contacted Spurlock, and Spurlock told them to contact the Franklin County Sheriff's Department (FCSD).
Franklin County Sheriff Ken Murphy said it is his understanding a county deputy was contacted by someone from Laurel about the dog's death, and the deputy was asked to investigate. Murphy said he did not know the time or date of the phone call. However, the deputy contacted FCSD Chief Deputy Major Greg Mehlbauer about investigating the dog's death. Mehlbauer said the department would not do the investigation.
According to Murphy, his department does not investigate other police agencies. That is a job for the ISP.
“They told us there was no protocol because the dog was not killed in the line of duty,” Boone said.
What may be one of the keys to the whole situation is Blade's status at the time of his death.
According to Indiana Code 35-46-3-11, the causing of death of a law enforcement animal is a Level 6 Felony. However, according to an ABC news article dated Aug. 9, it is also a federal offense to kill a law enforcement animal with a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison.
However, the killing of a vertebrate animal due to neglect is a misdemeanor.
Boone said under direction of the Laurel Town Attorney, Amber McMillin, Blade was decommissioned as a K-9 officer because it was being unprofessional at active crime scenes.
“He was out of service,” Boone said. “And technically and legally (Blade was) not a police canine at the time of his death.”
Several of those in the crowd responded at once, saying Blade had been purchased with public money; therefore, his death was important to all in the room and to the residents as a whole.
Boone said Blade went after a horse one time and a cat another time. Also, she said Blade went after a deputy. All happened while Blade was on duty, she said.
“He tried to attack a horse when they were on a track,” Boone said. “When he tried to search a car, he went after a cat and one of the deputies. Legally, if you ask our attorney (in November he was taken out of service).”
Boone said they are trying to get money back from the kennel, which trained Blade.
They did not bury the dog right away because the ground was frozen, Boone said.
Boone said she and Ellis are happy there is going to be an autopsy (necropsy) because they want to know what caused the dog's death.
LTC President Becky Jones said when the ISP releases Blade's body, the town will hold an official burial for the dog as if the dog is still on the police force.