Hialeah police officer Nelson Enriquez, a 13-year veteran of the police force in Miami-Dade County, has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an investigation into why his two police dogs- a bloodhound named Jimmy and a Belgian Malinois named Hector, were found dead in his vehicle parked outside his home Wednesday.
Enriquez arrived home mid-morning following his graveyard shift, leaving his two dogs in his Ford Explorer and did not return to the vehicle until four or five hours had passed. Once the Florida cop made his way back to the dogs that had been left to endure the scorching midday heat, both Jimmy and Hector were dead.
Temperatures that day reached 87 degrees in Davie, the Broward County city where Enriquez lives, meaning temperatures inside the car surpassed 130 degrees, leaving the dogs susceptible to hyperthermia.
Enriquez did not call Davie police to report the deaths until 6:50 p.m. Wednesday, despite suspicion that he may have found them hours beforehand. No explanation has been offered as to why the dogs were left in the vehicle, what occurred during that time or what took the officer so long to file a report.
Enriquez has been a K-9 officer for the past seven years and both dogs lived with him and his family, including his two children. The officer is “extremely distraught,” and the entire department is in mourning, Hialeah Police Sergeant Carl Zogby told the Miami Herald.
Once the dogs’ bodies are returned to the police department, they will be honored as fallen officers and receive a memorial service.
Enriquez could face up to five years in prison if convicted of Florida statute 843.19 (2), which states the following:
Any person who intentionally and knowingly, without lawful cause or justification, causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or death to, or uses a deadly weapon upon, a police dog, fire dog, SAR dog, or police horse commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084
But as the Broward-Palm Beach New Times points out, police who kill their own dogs rarely receive such harsh punishment, unlike citizens who kill police dogs.
For example, in 2007, Miami-Dade Police Sergeant Allen Cockfield was acquitted of animal cruelty after prosecutors accused him of kicking his German shepherd Duke during a training session. And in 2008, Miami police officer Rondal Brown received probation after starving his dog to death.
However, in 2013, a 16-year-old teenager named Ivins Rosier was tried as an adult and received a 23-year prison sentence for killing a retired police dog during a burglary.
In many states, a citizen killing a police dog can carry a stiffer sentence than molestation or rape.
In Pennsylvania, for example, Gov. Tim Corbett signed “Rocco’s Law,” which increased the prison sentence up to 10 years in prison coupled with a $25,000 fine if you are found guilty of killing a K-9, after a police dog was stabbed by a man suffering from mental illness.
The incident is currently under investigation by the Davie police department as well as Hialeah internal affairs.
Jimmy had been donated to the department by the Jimmy Ryce Center, a nonprofit named for a 9-year-old child who was horrifically abducted, raped and killed in Florida in 1995. The organization provides assistance to law enforcement during child abduction cases as well as providing departments with free bloodhounds to use in search and rescue missions. Jimmy primarily worked in cases of missing children.