The Tragedy of K9 Bak…

The Tragedy of K9 Bak…

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.

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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.

Peck Military
Undated photo of Matthew Peck

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…



K-9 Bak

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”

 

K9

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.

 

 

 

I Sat in Your Chair Today

I Sat in Your Chair Today

Technically it’s mine but you always chose it when we went to the river.

Seven weeks ago you stood on your lawn with police and rescue personnel present, and in the shadow of the setting sun, put a gun to your head and pulled the trigger. The last words you said were more in the form of a question. “What? I can’t hear you”.

When I learned of your death my universe was suddenly a very vast place and I was extremely alone. I guess I was selfish because I always counted on you being there. You were my sounding board, my go to person. I knew you suffered from depression and had made a suicide attempt many years ago. I knew because of the unwarranted termination of your job of 20 years, you were without healthcare coverage thus you weren’t able to continue either your therapy sessions or afford the antidepressant you’d taken for years. I wish I could have helped you! I begged you to use your VA benefits, apply for assistance through the local healthcare system, visit a labor lawyer – but you refused. I couldn’t understand why but finally stopped harping. Was I wrong? Should I have kept after you? What could I have done differently my dearest friend? I was always there for you but it was difficult to reach you because of your damn unreliable ISP and finicky computer. You never knew that I was planning on buying you a laptop. I tried to talk you into a cell phone off my plan but as usual you declined using the idiotic excuse “I don’t like all the noises cell phones make”. You and your damn independent streak. Looking at my words I realized that I’ve just described myself. It’s amazing we melded so well despite our arguments, like a married couple. Hence I introduced you as husband #2. I smile as I recall the expression on your face the first time I introduced my “two husbands” to the very Catholic women at the Parish Hall. They took my humor rather well I thought.
You had that quirky little smile when I said or did something outrageous or just plain dumb. Like getting stuck in your snowy driveway not once but twice the same day. Hell within the same hour. I miss that smile. I miss your wit and listening to your antigovernment theories while desperately trying to keep a straight face. I miss your hesitation when I hugged you goodbye. You lived such a solitary life that you had difficulty with human touch.
My four years of hell have reached an apex. The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster unlike anything I’ve ever experienced since those horrific childhood years. Every morning I wake up and within five minutes I’m a wreck because I realize I’m one day closer to being in a courtroom. The mere thought of it terrifies me, a residual effect of standing alone in front of a judge when I was just a child. Of being sentenced to a reform school for being incorrigible at an age when little girls still play with dolls. No – I’m not going there today. I refuse. I’m trying to think of the courtroom as just another room in a big building. Like a large room in a museum or a restaurant except with a different decor and theme. I tell myself that at the end of the day I’m free to walk out of the courtroom just as I would any other large room or venue. I’m trying to reprogram my mind. As frightening as it is to enter a court room, I have to tell myself it’s not, it’s a piece of cake, I can do it, it’s only a room, and I’m in rooms all the time, every day of my life. At my house, at the store, it’s just a room with walls and strangers in it, no different from any building I go to each week – post office, bank, grocery store, it’s just another building and I’ll be in a room like any other store I frequent, but at a different address and without shopping privileges! Somehow it’s not working for me though; my innate terror is simply too great. So I’ve vacillated whether I should settle out of court. It’s easier on so many levels. No emotional “courtroom” appearance, no testimony, not having my character and very essence attacked by a bitch desperately to rise in the law firm. I’ve met her type so many times before – driven and ambitious. Society often thinks it’s only men that ruthlessly climb the corporate ladder. They’ve obviously never met a woman who’s determined to move up the company food chain. They epitomize the word cutthroat . Settling would resolve nearly all my angst. A nice tidy business arrangement. I’d sign a confidentiality agreement and they’d give me a check. However therein lies my problem. This whole fiasco has never been about money. It’s never been about revenge. It was about the right to patient privacy, something they’re entitled to plus guaranteed under HIPAA. It’s about an employer who, instead of rectifying a problem, chose to retaliate against a nurse who was only doing her job. I’m not naive. I know many people enter the field at a young age because of the money, the ability to work the hours or amount of days they want, and the fact that no matter where they move they can usually find a job. Then there’s the people like me who are in a completely different profession but because of a life experience or circumstance find their calling is nursing. We go back to school (again) and armed with our degree jump headfirst into our new career. Of course it’s a nice paycheck but for me the greatest satisfaction was helping my patients. A nurse doesn’t just address physical needs such as wound care or pain relief. We are duty bound to protect their rights. Patients have a right to privacy which means you cannot discuss them by name when you’re off duty. It also means that if you see their privacy being violated you are obligated to address it.

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Yet here I am, four years later ~ drained of our savings, penalized and taxed for cashing in pensions, and dreading the day I have to appear in court. All because I reported a facility that failed to address the problem I reported several times.
Having said that, I’ve rejected a settlement offer. I know it’s crazy and I’m a glutton for punishment but I keep thinking about you. About the day that young woman fired you in front of everyone. I think about my termination and what it’s cost me. I think about all the other people who are unfairly terminated by an employer just because they’d been there so long that they are at the top of the pay scale. Or terminated because they called attention to safety violations. Or maybe because the manager simply didn’t like them. If you aren’t protected by a union your job is fair game.
Employers have to be made to realize that their employees are real people. With a life outside of work, perhaps a family or a dependent parent. They have bills to pay, obligations to meet. If they’re fired through no fault of their own they struggle financially and emotionally. And that’s where my problem is. I’m not naive in that I know I can’t change the world but by going to trial, speaking out, I can change one employer and that’s good enough for me. If I quietly accept a check and sign a confidentiality agreement, the employer is in essence buying my silence. They are free to continue caring more about insurance reimbursement than patient rights. What will the past four years of struggle have been about if I allow myself to be bought? As much as I fear the courtroom, I could not live with myself if I compromise my ethics. And in a small way, I’ve decided to see this through for you as well. While not the same company, a victory will give me a certain amount of satisfaction.
You’re still with me in so many ways just as I know you’ll be with me in court. That’s good enough for me. Let’s kick some ass…

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My friend loved his cats!