ASO: Deputy on paid administrative leave after death of K-9
Published July 12th, 2016
GAINESVILLE, Fla.--The Alachua County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of one of it's own.
"Everybody knows Robbie," says Lt. Brandon Kutner, Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office is mourning the loss of one of its canine officers, Robbie...after he was found unresponsive on Friday.
"Early Friday morning, somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:30 am, Deputy Willcox, being off-duty that weekend, responded to a request as part of the Alachua County SWAT team to respond to Gilchrist County to assist them with an individual who had barricaded himself inside of a home," says Kutner.
Deputy Tommy Willcox is part of the SWAT team, which makes his dog, Robbie, the primary K-9 officer for the SWAT team. It's unknown at this time whether Robbie was actually used in that operation.
"Robbie has been involved in some very high profile cases," says Kutner. "Both from drug enforcement standpoint as well as tactical operations standpoint."
Kutner says Willcox went to his house after the SWAT operation, then left to meet up with family. Later on Friday, Willcox tells the Sheriff's office he realized he couldn't remember where he left Robbie. He went back to his house and found him unresponsive in the back of his patrol car.
"The Sheriff's office was notified, obviously, and our criminal operations division as well as several other agencies responded out to the home," says Kutner.
Deputy Willcox is now on administrative leave, per his own request. "Willcox is not under investigation for this incident," explains Kutner. "We are investigating the circumstances which contributed to the death of the animal. He is on paid administrative leave as of yesterday afternoon, but it is not related to any disciplinary procedure."
Willcox has been with ASO since 2003 and has handled four dogs over that time. In 2008, he put down one of his former canine partners that he had since adopted. Willcox says health concerns led him to euthanize that dog, doing so in a controversial manner, shooting the dog in the head.
"The circumstances under which the dog was euthanized was investigated," says Kutner. "There were no criminal laws that were broken at that time, however, the manner in which he was euthanized, caused the Sheriff's office to revisit it's policies with regards to euthanizing our animals."
ASO's rule now: department animals now must be put down by veterinarian.
The Sheriff's office still has eight dogs in its K-9 unit, and they haven't determined if they will replace Robbie, or if Deputy Willcox will continue to be an ASO dog handler.
"That's a determination that needs to be made by the chain of command and by the sheriff when this investigation is completed," explains Kutner.
Kutner says it is too early to determine if Willcox will face any charges, but reiterates that is not the focus of their investigation.
ASO investigators requested a veterinarian perform a necropsy on Robbie. They expect to have his official cause of death this week.
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