Eight-year-old K-9 Bak was with the Stephens County OK Sheriff’s Dept. for six years. He was dual trained in both narcotics and detection and according to Sheriff Wayne McKinney, brought excellent work to the department. For the past four years, he was partnered with Deputy Matthew Peck, with whom he resided. Ironically, both K-9 Bak and Deputy Peck had both been with the department for six years.
On August 3, 2016, Deputy Peck finished his shift and returned home with Bak in the vehicle. Peck was off duty until August 5. We don’t know if K-9 Bak lived inside Peck’s home or in an outside kennel. What we do know however is that when Peck exited the patrol unit on August 3, he left K-9 Bak inside. Left him with no food, no water, and no air flow.
When Deputy Peck entered the patrol unit on August 5, he discovered his partner’s dead body. There was also a noticeable odor. In the initial media reports there were some discrepancies as to exactly when on August 5 Peck discovered K-9 Bak deceased; one report said he discovered him as soon as he entered the patrol vehicle and another said it wasn’t till he arrived at the Sheriff’s Department then reentered the vehicle to go to court that he made the gruesome discovery. In either event, the dog was left unattended for 38 hours. I cannot comprehend how a handler who has been partnered with a K9 for four years fails to notice that the dog is not out and about. Did it dawn on Peck when Bak’s usual meal time rolled around? Did he once stop and think, “Where is my partner”?When you handle a dog every working day, month after month, they become just as close to you as anyhuman partner. If a human officer willfully abandoned his partner to die of heat exhaustion, he’d be not only fired, he’d immediately be brought up on felony murder charges.
Matthew Thomas Peck was arrested on August 29 and charged with one count of cruelty to an animal, a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, and a fine of up to $5,000. After booking he was released on bond.
I had planned on attending his hearing scheduled for November 30, 2016, but was notified by the district attorney’s office that Peck had been deployed and would be leaving prior to November 30, therefore, the hearing was being postponed. He was deployed to the Ukraine on November 28 with the Oklahoma National Guard Company A 45th Brigade.
The wait began.
On July 26, 2017, Matthew Peck’s unit returned to Oklahoma.
He has a Preliminary Hearing Conference scheduled for October 11, 2017, at 9 am at the Stephens County Courthouse. All filed documents pertaining to this case are public record and available online at the Oklahoma State Courts Network. Once the link opens it will automatically be on the Stephens County page. Enter case number CF-16-387 and his case will appear. Documents can either be viewed or downloaded.
Although it’s imperfect, justice does still exist in the world. I have faith in Stephens County Assistant District Attorney Cortnie Siess to ensure that K9 Officer Bak receives it and that his slow and agonizing death does not go unpunished.
I’m having an extremely difficult time sleeping ~ all because of something I discovered regarding K9 Bak, the deceased officer from Stephen’s County Sheriff’s Dept. in Duncan OK. On November 4, 2016, I wrote a lengthy post on the horrific way this loyal six year veteran died called The Tragedy of K9 Bak… which went into great detail about the circumstances of his death, or in his case, murder.
But my insomnia isn’t from thinking about how K9 Bak died but rather, the events surrounding the memorial service the community organized as a way of honoring his life, something I closed my original post with. Last night a few details came to light.
Since the Stephen’s County Sheriff’s Department had not made any type of memorial arrangements yet, a member of the community took the initiative and began making plans for a community memorial. It was to be held on the East Side of the Stephen’s County Courthouse (the Sheriff’s Department is located within the same building). The reason for this is there is a monument on the East Side that is a tribute to fallen officers. It was scheduled for 10 am on September 6.
Monument on Eastt Side
Monument Seen From Sidewalk
Sheriff Wayne McKinney told the Duncan Banner why his department would not be doing a memorial for K9 Bak at this time. Since the Duncan Banner only allows a few views before locking one out until you subscribe, I copied their article to a document with a sharable link.
On August 31, one of the organizers announced that the memorial service had to be relocated from the courthouse to the local park which is one half mile away. The reason? “Changed location to Duncan Park. Sheriff up for reelection so can’t be honoring this officer at the courthouse. Hmmmm”. I checked the election results only to find that Sheriff McKinney did win however the election was June 28. My turn to say “Hmmmm”. For whatever reason the organizers had to move the location.
On September 6 as promised community members had a small but lovely memorial for K9 Bak that brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t see a uniform presence in any of the photos and one of the attendees said “It would have been nice to have some police support”. Perhaps they were in street clothes?
Bless this comminity!
In closing, sadly this is not a video of K9 Bak however I wish he had been remenbered by his “family” like this. Perhaps they will ….someday. After all, he was a loyal BlueDog.
Several months ago I wrote a post entitled What Is It With These Psycho Cops??? which focused on K-9 Bak of the Stephens County OK Sheriff’s Department. K-9 Bak was 8 years old and had served with the Sheriff’s Department since he was 2. For the past four years, he was partnered with (former) Deputy Matthew Peck with whom he also resided. Coincidentally, both Bak and Peck had worked for the Sheriff’s Department for six years. According to Sheriff Wayne McKinney, K-9 Bak was an excellent dual purpose dog used for detection and narcotics.
When former deputy Matthew Peck returned home from duty on August 3, 2016, he left K-9 Bak in the vehicle for approximately 38 hours with no water, food or ventilation. He literally closed the car door and walked away. Even after everything I’ve written about this case I still cannot fathom what motivated Peck. I’ve read one or two media reports that said “people” had claimed that Peck had started leaving K-9 Bak in the patrol car on his days off but I’ve encountered so many discrepancies with this case that I’m not sure what’s true and what’s not except that a noble K9 (often called a #BlueDog) died an excruciating death, alone in a patrol car, when the outside temperatures hovered at 100 degrees.
On August 5, Peck returned to his vehicle and found his K9 partner dead inside at which point he notified Undersheriff John Smith. It was reported that as officers approached Peck’s vehicle they could smell a decomposing animal. An internal investigation was launched and Peck was terminated on August 8. A criminal investigation however continued and on August 29 District Attorney Jason Hicks office charged Matthew Peck with one count of cruelty to an animal, a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, and a fine of up to $5,000. Peck’s bond was set at $5,000 and his first appearance was yesterday, November 2, at the Stephens County Courthouse. Court documents state that Peck found K-9 Bak dead at approximately 10:40 a.m. August 5, 2016.
In my original post on K-9 Bak, I wrote about the physiological effect heat exhaustion has on a canine so won’t repeat it other than to say the dog suffers terribly. I have a feeling that K-9 Bak was crated inside the patrol vehicle although I could be wrong. The reason I think this is twofold. If Peck truly had started leaving the dog in the vehicle on his days off it would be easier to clean urine and feces out of a crate as opposed to the car seat. Secondly, even if August 3 was the first time Peck left Bak in the vehicle, after 38 hours Peck would have opened the door to utter destruction yet none of the media reports mentioned a damaged car. A trapped canine will literally shred the interior of a vehicle in an attempt to escape the oppressive heat. As the heat rises, the trapped dog will claw, bite and/or try to chew their way out.
This has been an unbelievingly difficult story to follow because of all the inaccuracies I’ve discovered. For example, in the hometown newspaper, The Duncan Banner, one article said that K-9 Bak died on August 5 yet another one of their articles said he died on August 24. Then there’s the mainstream media ~ the local affiliates for ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. One would report that Peck discovered K-9 Bak when he approached the vehicle that morning while another said:
On Friday morning, as Beck was driving to court, according to WXIN (Indianapolis), he noticed the smell coming from the back of his patrol car. On seeing the rotting body of his partner in the back, Peck went straight to his superior, Undersheriff John Smith.
I’ve often wondered how well reporters fact check because through my K9 advocacy work I find a multitude of errors and often one reporter writes verbatim what another reporter has already written.
On November 2, Matthew Peck had a Preliminary Hearing Conference which I chose not to attend as it is very basic. At the conference, he was scheduled for a Preliminary Hearing in front of a Special Judge on November 30, 2016, at 9am which I planned to attend. At this hearing, the prosecutor will prove to the judge that a crime was committed and witnesses will testify. If the judge agrees then a trial date is set. Since Preliminary Hearing Conferences can be continued before the date it’s scheduled and often on the actual date, I was paying a bit extra to buy my plane ticket with cancellation insurance. I researched package deals last night (flight, hotel and car rental) and was going to make my purchase this afternoon. Then an email arrived from the assistant district attorney; Matthew Peck has been deployed and will be leaving before November 30. Amazing! Six years with the Sheriff’s Department and not once was he deployed but now that he’s facing a felony charge ~ poof. Did I also mention his father is with the OSP and he has a brother in law enforcement as well?
Peck was in the military at some point and probably remained active with the National Guard. Somehow it doesn’t seem right that he can leave with this charge pending but this is the United States where we are innocent until proven guilty.
So where do I go from here? With Peck deployed the trial will be postponed for a long time. Emotions surrounding K-9 Bak’s horrific death will go by the wayside. His name will come up in a Google search as he joins the growing list of K9s who die in hot cars; his life reduced to a mere number. People will move on and forget about a noble and devoted dog who contributed so much to both the Stephens County Sheriffs Department as well as the community he served faithfully for six years. And what about Matthew Peck? What made him so void of humanity that he could essentially murder his partner in such an unconscionable way? What kind of human, especially one sworn to serve and protect, does something so savage?
Where did K-9 Bak come from? Was he imported as many working dogs are or from a United States breeder? Where did he live/work prior to joining the department when he was 2? Was he fully trained when he became an officer for Stephens County? What was the plan for him as he approached retirement? There are too many questions that need to be answered and until they are, I simply cannot chalk Bak’s life up to a statistic and forget about it. I have come to care about this issue more than I intended when I first wrote about it. I’ve invested myself and simply put, need to see it through.
As for the ever-increasing number of K9 hot car deaths? Perhaps the only thing that could prevent 100% of these deaths is a policy that required officers to never leave a dog alone in a vehicle.
On July 13 I wrote a post about the death of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections K9 Totti called RIP K9 Officer Totti ~ End of Watch. K9 Totti, a 2-year-old Golden Labrador, died on July 7, 2016, because he was left in a hot car for 3 hours by his handler, Sgt. Chad Holland. I’m not going to retell all the events of that day as honestly? They make me extremely angry. Totti’s death galvanized me on several levels. He died of heat exhaustion which is how my dog Callie died. Not because I left her in a hot car but because her vet of many years allowed her to languish in one of her exam rooms with a temperature that rose by the hour. By the time I took Callie out and arrived at the emergency veterinary practice, her temperature was past the point of being dangerous. My beloved Callie died because the prolonged and untreated temperature caused sudden onset of irreversible organ damage; she went into acute renal failure. The second reason K9 Totti’s death galvanized me is personal and I’m not “there yet” where I can think about it much less write it; someday. Suffice it to say I am indebted to a K9 officer and in writing about them, I’m paying it forward in my own way.
On October 20, 2016, K9 Totti received justice as her former handler, Chad Holland, following a bench trial, was found guilty of animal cruelty, sentenced to 2 days in a correctional facility and fined $300. There have been several media articles yet whether Holland is still employed as a correctional officer is unclear. Example ~ this article refers to him as “A former central Pennsylvania corrections officer” so to clarify if only for my own edification I reached out to a reporter I know in PA. She’s also curious and will find out from the Department of Corrections (DOC) on Monday.
K9 Totti and his handler were assigned to the Rockview State Prison, located just a few miles from Bellafonte PA, and by prison standards is quite large. Rockview has over 670 full-time employees and on September 30 had 2,367 inmates. It sits on property that consists of several thousand acres. Rockview is also the only PA prion equipped to administer the death penalty. Although technically PA is still a death penalty state, shortly after taking office in 2015 Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he was placing a moratorium on it until he reviewed a report on capital punishment in the state. Pennsylvania hasn’t executed an inmate since 1999 and has carried out only three executions since 1976, making it one of the least-active states with the death penalty. Yet the state also has one of the largest populations of death-row inmates with 176 as of October 3.
I’ve given you this data on Rockview so you can understand how important of a role K9 Totti had as part of the drug detection unit. Chad Holland had been a handler for 9 years. The car with Totti locked inside sans air conditioning or any type of ventilation was parked only 10 feetfrom his kennel yet Holland failed to take care of his partner ~ a living sentient being. Instead he talked on the phone, went inside one of the air-conditioned buildings; basically, everything he did was wrong. Holland might as well have put a gun to K9 Totti’s head and pulled the trigger. I think that we as a society are tired of reading about K9 hot car deaths due to handler negligence. The surrounding towns in PA were in an uproar and held demonstrations. We created a Twitter storm and two of the DOC top brass subsequently locked their Twitter accounts. The petition gathered over 165k signatures.
Whereas in the past police departments have circled the wagons around a handler, as Bob Dylan sang ~ times they are a-changin’. While I think the punishment given to Chad Holland is quite lenient at least it’s a start. As you saw in some of my other K9 posts, these negligent, irresponsible handlers are being held accountable.
Which brings me to the place I’m going next, K9 Bak’s murder by his handler, Matthew Peck in Oklahoma. Probably the worst case of wanton abuse committed by an officer. I also wrote about it on August 30 in a post calledWhat Is It With These Psycho Cops???
However, that post was only the beginning of my involvement in K9 Bak’s death. Although unable to establish a relationship with the sheriff, I have with the district attorney and plan on being in OK for Peck’s trial. I’ve kept detailed notes and plan on writing about it. I simply cannot remain silent any longer.