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 is the interior of a police cruiser from Montville Township Police Department in Ohio. K-9 Beny was trapped inside the police vehicle for four hours on September 28, 2014, and died. As the heat rose, K-9 Beny, trapped inside the car, tried to claw, bite and chew his way out. The temperature that day was 80 degrees. His handler, Sgt. Brett Harrison was charged with two counts of animal cruelty but only found guilty of one. He remains a sergeant with the Montville PD but is no longer a handler.
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.
In closing, I read an article in September about how the community K9 Bak served united to honor him with a memorial. Such a beautiful act of compassion and love…
EOW August 5, 2016
Stephens County Sheriff’s Department
He has gone home to rest for the final time
“Officer Kilo Bak is 10-42 … Good Boy Bak”
The first to sense the hostility of a suspect,
The first to react to protect his master.
The first to enter where danger lurks.
The first to detect the hidden intruder.
The first to take action against violence.
The first to sense his master’s joy.
The first to know his master’s sorrow or fear.
The first to give his life in defense of his master.
The last to be forgotten by those who work with others like him.
They know him as a “Partner,” not just an animal.