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.
I’ve been a bit quiet lately. Partially because I’ve been working on getting my German Shepherd Sasha’s blog online and up to date. But I’ve also taken my passion for K9s who die unnecessarily because of handler negligence to a new level. An “I’m in your face and not going away” kind of level. Many animal activists have attempted to enlist me in their causes but emotionally I know my limitations. I’m aware of the dog trade in China, the killing of whales and the lucrative trophy hunting industry but I simply cannot look at graphic images nor participate in campaigns.
What I can do however is use my voice to both raise public awareness and put pressure on police departments to take punitive action when a K9 officer dies because a handler left the dog in a closed squad car while he ran errands, went to the fair, or helped a friend fix a lawnmower – all in 90 F heat. Departments have historically circled the wagons around handlers, referring to K9 deaths as “tragic accidents”. Yes its tragic but it’s definitely not an accident. No responsible law enforcement officer “forgets” his partner, a dog so highly trained and committed to its job they put themselves in harm’s way to protect the handler. And for the most part, K9 handlers are phenomenal in the care they give their 4 legged partners. Sadly these excellent human/dog teams are being eclipsed by the heinous cruelty of a few. Former Lt. Dan Peabody, Cherokee County GA, left K9 Inka, 4-year-old Belgium Malinois, in his hot patrol car where she died ~ suffering terribly in the process as death is neither swift nor kind. Peabody was so emotionally distraught he had to be treated at the hospital. Soon however the dark side emerged, the evil that embodied Dan Peabody revealed who he really was, a serial dog killer. For not only did he allow K9 Inka to literally roast to death, but he executed his retired K9 Dale ~ a yellow lab. When authorities excavated Peabody’s yard expecting to find K9 Dale’s remains, they instead found a third dog who’d been shot in the back of the head. The dog, a female, had been approximately 10 years old at the time of death. Since the body exhumed was also a Belgium Malinois, authorities believe the dead female may have been K9 Inka’s grandmother. Peabody by all accounts seemed “normal”. Heavily tattooed and muscular, he was the affable police lieutenant who, with K9 Inka, was assigned to the Cherokee County School District. As the evidence demonstrated, he was anything but normal. And he’s among a handful of police whose K9 partners have died as a direct result of their callous and irresponsible behaviors. I’ve previously written about K9 Totti in PA and K9 Bak in OK. K9 Bak was left in the hot car for over 37 hours without food, water, ventilation; his handler never once checked on him. Instead, he smelled K9 Bak’s body on the way to work! Yet these are the same individuals we are taught to turn to for help? That their job is to protect us? I wouldn’t trust the care of a houseplant to these irresponsible officers whose negligence causes the deaths of excellent K9 officers in a most excruciating way. Just think about being locked in a hot car and fighting for every breath until you couldn’t breathe anymore! Very heart wrenching and inexcusable!
The further I dig the more appalled, no make that outraged, I become. Not just with the police but the sick sadistic predators in society who are committing more and more hateful and egregious acts of cruelty against domestic animals. Raping a dog, sodomizing a puppy, strangling kittens with USB cords, stealing and dismembering a family dog. Is this today’s norm? Has society really disintegrated to the point where people of all ages brutally abuse animals and think its acceptable? Or has it been going on all along but now the burgeoning of social media brings the horror to our computers and tablets? In a recent case at Baylor University in TX, Ishmael Zamora was given a 3 game suspension by the football team after a video appeared online of him beating his young Rottweiler with a belt and kicking him to the point where the dog cried in pain. All because the poor Rottie had a pee accident.
At Missouri State College, yet another football player abused his neighbors dog Luca whom he was entrusted to watch. Breck Ruddick admitted to “loosing his cool”, striking the 42# dog then allowing him to run away while bleeding. The owner put out an urgent plea on social media and a woman who found the injured and still bleeding dog quickly brought him home. Luca had been struck so hard that his jaw was shattered. Not broken ~ shattered! He required surgery, had 6 teeth removed and received numerous sutures.
In Florida a 20-year-old UFC student severely abused his 17 week old puppy eventually causing the pups death. Luke Stribling kicked and punched his Shibu Inu puppy Julian, also for pee pee accidents. He was ticketed for cruelty in June yet the puppy remained with him until he finally killed him at 17 weeks old!! During the first veterinarian visit (for a broken leg) the vet said Julian had multiple fractures both old and new and that the pup literally shook from severe pain. She asked Stribling why he didn’t seek medical care earlier for the pain Julian was in; Stribling said he didn’t know. Less than 2 weeks later Stribling brought the dead puppy to a different vet who notified authorities. Investigators said an autopsy indicated the puppy had suffered severe internal injuries, including a hemorrhaged eye, liver and brain. An innocent puppy, a living sentient being. Tortured and killed for what? Urinating in the student’s apartment? Death at barely 4 months combined with the timeline of his injuries clearly show Julian was abused for most of his life since Stribling got the pup at 8 weeks old.
It takes a very sick and malicious person to do this to any living creature but it’s especially heinous when it’s done to a defenseless animal. Or a K9 officer. Animals look to us for guidance, love, nourishment and safety yet some humans are incapable of rendering the most basic of things. We have to be their voice for they’re being abused, tortured and killed at an alarming rate. And many by youth who for all intent and purpose represent the leaders of tomorrow. I shudder to think how our country will thrive with evil at the helm.
As to the title and header picture for this post? It refers to Deputy Tommy Willcox of Alachua County Sheriff’s Office in Alachua County FL. I’ve been writing and tweeting about him for what seems forever. A brief synopsis about Deputy Willcox. On July 8, 2016 Willcox put his partner K9 Robbie, a 6½-year-old Belgian Malinois, into his squad car at the end of a shift and drove home. He left K9 Robbie in the car while he went to meet his family at another location. Yes the car was equipped with a safety monitoring system to detect heat but ONLY works if the car is running! Safety monitoring system aside, how does one “forget” their partner of SIX YEARS? On a day so hot (98) it almost broke a previous record set in 1991? In that type of heat a dog will begin to experience distress in a matter of minutes. K9 Officer Robbie was named after Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller of Oviedo, FL who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2008. K9 Robbie however was simply murdered by his partner in America after faithfully serving the department for 6 years. Wilcox had another K9, Kozar, that he adopted when the dog retired. In 2008, Wilcox said Kozar was limping and going blind so this Floridian example of toxic waste had his buddy put on a bite sleeve, engage Kozar in bite work while Wilcox took his weapon and shot Kozar to death. Wilcox said he considered it a humane form of euthanasia and Sheriff Sadie Darnell supported his decision because Wilcox grew up on on a pig farm . Sheriff Darnell said “Wilcox had killed more than 100 animals – mostly pigs – that same way.”
Who gets off in any way, shape or form by being cruel to animals? It is one of the most baffling and sickening psychological perversions I’ve ever encountered. I believe that penalties for the mistreatment of animals must be harsher and more strictly enforced. These people don’t belong among us. Some say, “They’re only animals…” Exactly. Abuse an animal, go to jail. For a long time! And Deputy Wilcox was at the top of my list because there was and still is no way I can condone or even undestand his culpability in the death of TWO dogs. So my campaign began. I stated a media firestorm, targeting not only the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and Alachua County but all the Florida media, the Chamber of Commerce, and Tourism Bureau. Let’s put it like this, if there was a organization I found them. I sent Tweets jointly to the Sheriff’s Office and the County asking how long before Wilcox killed the next K9? I actually scheduled my tweets to ensure I didn’t forget. Finally on Oct 3, three months after K9 Robbie’s death, Deputy Wilcox was suspended for 6 days without pay and removed from the K-9 unit where he had been the lead trainer. While it won’t bring Robbie back nor give Kozar the end of life treatment he deserved, it’s a small step forward ~ I’ll take it.
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.