Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City Police Department's K-9 Officer "Trooper" found dead

Photo: origin unknown

Another K-9 Officer goes down from purported "heat exhaustion" in Columbia County, Florida. Two years ago it was the Sheriff's K-9 Officer Brutus. This time it was the Lake City Police Department's K-9 "Trooper," handled by Police Officer Kevin Johns.

According to the police press release, which was distributed by the LCPD at 09:50 pm yesterday evening, K-9 Officer Trooper was off duty and found dead by his handler 01:10 pm yesterday afternoon, at home in his kennel, one hour and forty minutes after PO Johns left him alone. The report does not explain what was meant by a "kennel."

The report claims that when Officer Johns left K-9 Officer Trooper in his kennel at 11:30 am, the dog was fine. When Officer Johns returned home, he found Trooper dead.

Then, according to LCPD Shaw's press release, Officer Johns "made appropriate contact to the administrative staff of the Police Department to report the incident." It would appear this means he called the police, who then apparently responded to Officer John's home and took the dead K-9 officer to an as yet unknown veterinarian.

The press release claims "the autopsy revealed the cause of death was due to heat exhaustion."

Who was K-9 Officer Trooper

According to the LCPD, Trooper was a 7 year old Malinois K-9. He had served as a K-9 Officer for the Lake City Police Department since January 2010. K-9 Officer Trooper was certified in the detection of drugs and narcotics in October of 2010 and made numerous cases since that time.


If housed in a properly constructed dog run with proper ventilation, shade and water, K-9 Officer Trooper or any other dog should not die from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Police K-9 Officers cost anywhere from $6000 up to $25,000.

Does the culture of the Columbia County's good ol' boys allow the LCPD or the Sheriff's Office to fairly and truthfully investigate and then tell the truth?

Was Trooper murdered by drug dealers? What does the LCPD mean by a "kennel?"

Failure to properly care for K-9 Officer Trooper in such a way that caused his death, in the civilized world, would be felony animal cruelty, punishable by hard time.

The press release was received by the Observer at 09:50 pm. At 09:55 pm the Observer called Officer Shaw's cell phone.

Officer Shaw did not pick up the phone. The Observer left a message.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On July 23, 2011, Adrienne Hudson of Columbia County wrote:

Deaths of Trooper and Brutus need to be investigated by ASPCA and/or HSUS.

Why were the autopsies not done by forensic veterinarians at UF College of Veterinary Medicine?

After years of trying to motivate the Columbia County Commissioners and the CCSO to seriously and professionally investigate animal cruelty and neglect and abide by Florida's excellent animal welfare laws, I am not surprised that two K-9 Officers in 2 years have perished because of their handlers irresponsibility and incompetence. Is it not the ultimate betrayal of a brother law enforcement officer willing to sacrifice life and limb to protect their partner to be left to die a horrendous and anguishing death from heat exhaustion? Perhaps the worst betrayal is for the guilty partner's supervisors to cover up and shrug off the tragedy?

The only remedy is for a full blown investigation of the incidents by experienced national animal welfare groups. I would also suggest that CCSO and LCPD be banned from having K-9 units and the K-9 officers currently in their care and custody be sold to responsible law enforcement agencies with K-9 units immediately before any more of these loyal and dedicated officers die appalling deaths at the hands of their incompetent fellow officers.

Adrienne Hudson
Founder Neighbors' Equine Assistance Team, Inc. Fort White, FL


On July 23, 2011, Stephen H of Columbia County wrote:

Dear everyone in Columbia County,

This the second K9 to die in Columbia County. This does not happen elsewhere with out a full and independent investigation of this matter. Considering the history of this  sheriff dept. with animals , and now Lake City, I believe there better be a full investigation for finding the facts on the poor dog and the money aspect as well.             Stephen H.


On July 23, 2011, Leah of Little Rock, AR wrote:

The news about the death of K-9 Trooper left me, a dog person (trainer, former breeder, exhibitor in obedience, breed, and agility, with more than five decades of experience) wondering what the public is not being told about the circumstances of the dog's death.
This dog, if American bred and obtained, would have cost somewhere around $10,000 to purchase and train for police work.  If the dog had been imported from Europe, the cost could have been closer to $20,000.  Plain old common sense would dictate that a valuable commodity -- much less your working partner -- be provided with the necessities to keep him safe during this extreme heat wave.

Temperatures in the Lake City area, like so much of the country, have been averaging about 97 degrees a day, with a heat index adding as much as 10 degrees.  It has been all over the news that pets should be brought inside whenever possible, and that they be provided with adequate shade, plenty of cool water, and be observed to make sure they do not go into heat exhaustion, which occurs when the dog's body cannot adequately cool itself. Heat exhaustion leads to heat stroke, which can claim a dog's life.

It is difficult to believe that a trained handler such as Trooper's partner, would be ignorant of these basics. In fact, it would have been expected that Johns would have provided a kiddie pool of water for Trooper to get into, or a water mister on the kennel, which would have reduced the air temperature about 10 degrees. In addition there are canopy tents for shade, cooling beds, cooling collars and vests, and the good old basic: the fan. This begs the question: why wasn't the dog left in an air conditioned house, crated if necessary, while the officer left the premise?

There are lot of unanswered questions. It is entirely possible that Kevin Johns provided adequate shade and water for his partner.  Is it possible that Trooper did not expire due to the heat? And why wait until the 11 pm news cycle to release the story? Maybe I've been reading too many mysteries, but something doesn't jive about what the public has been told.

Leah, Little Rock, AR


On July 23, 2011, Bill Cann of Hampton, VA wrote:

I was greatly disturbed to read of the tragic and senseless deaths of two K-9 Officers in Columbia County, Florida.  Although they are highly trained, K-9 Officers are still akin to children in that they depend on their handlers for their total well being, safety and security as kids rely on their parents.  Are the living areas for K-9 Officers in Columbia County certified for their safety in all weather conditions?  If not, they should be.  Is there a hot weather safety awareness program in place for K-9 Handlers?  Does it include the dangers faced by the off duty K-9 Officer?  I hope topics such as these will be properly addressed and reported to the citizens of your area in order that they may be assured that their tax dollars are not being wasted through the needless and negligent deaths of their K-9 Officers.

A civilian could face fines and jail for the mistreatment of their pet in such a manner.  Will Law Enforcement K-9 Handlers be held accountable to the public for causing the death of a K-9 in their care?

Bill Cann, Hampton, VA


On July 25, 2011, "Please do not post my name" from Lake City wrote:

Animals due not have autopsys as stated. They have a necrotopsy. Both take time to complete and time to get the results back. As stated in the press release, the dog passed away on Friday and an Autopsy was conducted and completed on Friday. I am calling B/S on this.  I can assure you that there is more to this story then what is being told.

Please do not post my name


On July 27, 2011 Dottie from Jacksonville wrote:

 I can't believe this wonderful dog who served his master and the community so well, was left to die in the heat of outdoors when he should have been inside.  This is gross neglect and stupidity and while I am a great supporter of Police and pray for them and the difficult and dangerous job they have, I can't believe this human Officer treated his K-9 friend with such cruelty as deserves punishment.

Trooper's handler should never be given another K-9.  He is either too stupid or too heartless to deserve such a caring and fine friend.  Lord Byron said that dogs have all the virtues of man and none of his vices...Trooper would never have left his handler out in the heat in a "cage" to suffer and die.

I don't like this officer and have no respect for him.  He is heartless, cruel and apparently dumb.                                            Dottie


On July 27, 2011, RD of Lake City wrote:

We all have either owed a dog or had a dog to hang around our neighborhoods, which makes the reason given for K9 Trooper death suspicious and outrageous. A dog will not die in less than 2 hours, if he/she is provided ventilation, water, and shade. A dog will die if he/she is left in a car during extreme heat with no air condition, water or ventilation. I understand that accidents happen, but this officer needs to first tell the truth

I heard that the dog was left in his police car, in the heat with no air condition on, during his death                                  RD.


On August 31, 2011, Jay wrote:

I am shocked ! I cannot believe someone could work side by side with someone like Trooper and not do any better than that ! Trooper worked for a living didn't he earn his right to lay on the couch in the A/C ? I understand there are laws against animal neglect and abuse ? But aren't there another set of laws that apply here as well He was a Police Officer ! But I suppose his handler would b above the law ,Meaning none of these apply or get enforced ! Yet he can still arrest u and me if we break one ! Hows come I keep thinking u and me will never hear the TRUTH .


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