Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City Police Department's K-9 Trooper Whereabouts of death unsolved

How K9-Officer Trooper ended up in his pen and whether or not he was dead before he got there is still a mystery according the the Lake City Police Department. Photo: LCPD

It took over five months for the Lake City Police Department to release its report on the demise K-9 Officer Trooper. The record clearly indicates that the investigation was completed on October 19, 2011. On November 10, 2011, LCPD Capt. John Blanchard recommended to Chief Gilmore that Officer Kevin Johns, Trooper's handler and partner, be given a 2 day suspension for neglect of duty. Chief Gilmore dragged her feet for almost two months before deciding to put a letter of reprimand in Officer John's personnel file.

The Expert Witness

On August 22th, 2011, LCPD Captain Robert Smith conducted a recorded sworn telephone interview with Dr. Robert Reisman regarding his report and the death of K-9 Officer Trooper.

There are three veterinary reports from three vets. All three are available for download here. (not suitable for dial-up)

Dr. Robert Reisman is currently the Medical Coordinator of Animal Cruelty Cases for The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York. Dr. Reisman has held his current position for 11 years and has been employed at Bergh Memorial Hospital for 23  years.

Dr. Reisman holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from the State University of New York, Albany, New York, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine Degree from the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine, at Cornel University, Ithaca, New York, graduating in 1980.

Dr. Reisman has published a number of chapters on the evaluation of live animals and animals suspected of animal cruelty. Dr. Reisman estimates that he has been primarily responsible for investigating approximately one thousand animal cruelty cases. He has testified in court (Trial and Grand Jury cases) 38 times; each time Dr. Reisman was called, he testified as an expert witness.

LCPD's Captain Smith hired Dr. Reisman as an expert witness.

Trooper's front paws are under the fence. This could be an indication that the gate was closed after he was put in his pen. Photo: LCPD

Capt. Smith asked - Did Trooper die in his kennel? Was the body staged?

Based on Dr. Reisman's report, Capt. Smith asked Dr. Reisman: "Was the death of K-9 Officer Trooper highly unlikely to have occurred in his kennel?" Dr. Reisman's response was "yes."

Dr. Reisman was also asked if the positioning of K-9 Officer Trooper's body was staged? Dr. Reisman responded, "Yes".

Dr. Reisman was asked to explain how he drew that conclusion. Dr. Reisman responded by stating "there are a number of things about the way the animal was found and its death that are hard to explain by the animal having been in that kennel for 110 minutes". Dr. Reisman gave the following examples:

1.  The death itself:   Dr. Reisman stated that "that's a very short period of time" for an animal in that particular environment to have died, and at the time it was seen to have already been in rigor"

2.  The animal's legs are extended  

Dr. Reisman stated there seem to be a question as to what could cause the legs to be rigged during life verses, post mortem. Dr. Reisman explained that during life, and post mortem, is two different processes.

a. During life - it's conceivable during life if the animal is seizing the legs are rigged. But then the muscles will relax post mortem because seizing is a process that occurs during life. An animal's body that is very warm would develop rigor mortis more quickly, because rigor mortis is simply a chemical reaction and any chemical reaction will speed up as the temperature goes up. "That's just a basic reaction between a chemical and temperature."

For the body to be that hot it would have to have been in a confined space, like a car.

The water bucket is filled. No one took the temperature of the water. Johns claimed to have filled the bucket early that morning.
Photo: LCPD

3.  The heat index was not relatively high, yet the animal's body temperature was over 110° when it reached the veterinarian hospital. Dr. Reisman stated that this temperature is not typical of an animal in that type of environment. "The environment you would expect to have an animals body that hot, would have to be in a confined space, like a car."

4.  The duration that the animal was in it's kennel was a short period of time.

5.  The animal wasn't tethered in the kennel and had the ability to drink water and use the burrow it had dug. "It seem like it was there to help to moderate the environment it was exposed to."

6.  "For the animal to be found right at the cage door was surprising, especially the way it was found". "With both legs up against the door, it's an odd position; if the animal really died [there] you wouldn't expect it to be like that."

The three veterinary reports are available for download here. (not suitable for dial-up)

A few days later, on August 26th, Capt Smith conducted a second telephone interview with Dr. Reisman.

Dr. Reisman was asked how long would it take for rigor mortis to set in on an animal.

Dr. Reisman responded, "Many hours". He stated the factor is the body temperature of the dog, rather than the environment. "The body temperature of the dog was very hot, so that's what would speed that process."  Dr. Reisman went on to say that "that's quick for rigor to have set in, at the most an hour and a half, but in his professional opinion "it is possible."

Dr. Reisman acknowledged that he has no interest in the outcome of this investigation. That he does not personally know anyone involved in this investigation and that his only role in this investigation was to examine the LCPD police report, the necropsy report, and pictures taken on July 22, 2011, and render an expert opinion.

Information compiled from LCPD public information request. The Observer thanks the LCPD's Destiny Hill and Lake City's Sunshine Girls, City Clerk Audrey Skies and Deputy Michele Green for their efforts in making this information available.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On January 10, 2012, RS of Duval County wrote:

This wonderful dog should never have died like this! Peg and John Hickey should have taken Trooper to the Vet immediately when he heat stroked in their care!! A K-9 officer is considered a Police Officer by law and I feel charges should be brought against John and Peg Hickey for Negligence and Endangering the life of a Police Officer. Everything seems to revolve around the Hickeys', their kennel, and their training. There is more here that is not being told and I seriously believe that the FDLE needs to step in as the Lake City PD is right in the middle of this. The Lake City PD is also negligent in their so called running of their K-9 program!


On January 16, 2012, Adrienne Hudson of Columbia County wrote:

TWO K-9 Officers have died through the negligence of their handlers in Columbia County in the past 2 years and there is little to no oversight or standards that the handlers have to meet.

As far as I'm concerned, law enforcement officials in Columbia County should NOT be allowed to utilize K-9's in any capacity until there is a system in place to monitor the living and working conditions of K-9 Officers. Their handlers should be subject to prosecution for violating animal welfare laws like any ordinary citizen.


On February 7, 2012, gmh9 wrote:

Boomer and Florida are not alone!  Small town central Illinois authorities like to grab dogs right from your property or lure them out then kill them and are very good at lying and falsifying records to cover it up.   It is just another example of another constitutional right being taken away from those without money and political influence.  May God protect the innocent and give us the strength to stop these criminal acts by those in authority.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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