Employees in the Stephens County Sheriffs Office laid one of their own family members to rest: K9 Officer Bak, an eight-year-old German Shepherd who served the department for six years.
Sheriff Wayne McKinney said on Aug. 5, a canine handler discovered his partner, Bak, dead.
At this time, the cause of death is believed to be heat exhaustion, but McKinney conducted an internal investigation Aug. 8 on the canine handler, Matthew Peck, to answer some questions and look for policy violations.
“I’ve terminated; I’ve fired the deputy for departmental policy violations,” McKinney said. “Also at that time, kind of (collaborating) with it, we were conducting a criminal investigation on the cause of death of that dog.”
That criminal investigation is still ongoing, according to McKinney, but he’s already handed over preliminary reports to District Attorney Jason Hick’s office for review.
“The DA’s office will be making a decision based on what our investigation shows whether or not they’re going to pursue any criminal charges,” McKinney said. “It’s been a sad day around here for all of us. We all like our animals. I’ve got several personally of my own, but these dogs that work day-to-day with some of our deputies are their partners. You have the utmost responsibility to take care of those dogs as a K9 handler. I know there was some departmental policies violated, but we have concerns in other areas. We’re looking at that, and I just want to assure the people it will be dealt with if there is a problem.”
Bak, one of the last dogs remaining from the first group McKinney’s office received, will not have a memorial service because the department has already buried him. Bak’s name, however, will be added to the Memorial in front of the Stephens County Courthouse.
This leaves the department with one K9, Filo, who serves as a dual purpose dog for not only police protection, but also narcotic detection. At this time, another dog remains in training as a bomb detecting dog, and the department looks to secure two more K9s.