A police officer whose K-9 died after being left in the back of a hot car is going to have to face a grand jury. Initially, the police department said that no charges would be filed, but after public outcry, it has said that the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Corporal Josh Coleman, of the Gulf Shores Police Department, was the handler for Mason, a community relations K-9 officer. Last Thursday, Coleman left Mason in the back of his cruiser while he was “between duties.” At first, neither Coleman nor the department could say how long Mason was in the car, but recently they’ve begun to say that it was about an hour before Coleman remembered and came back for the dog.
Regardless of how long Mason was in the car, when Coleman came back, he was in a lot of trouble from the heat. Coleman took him to a local vet. After initial treatment, Mason was transferred to an advanced facility in Pensacola, Florida, but to no avail. On Friday night, he died of respiratory failure.
Most police dogs in Gulf Shores ride in cars that are specially equipped to avoid this exact situation. They include heat alarms, water dishes, and other precautions. However, Mason was a community relations dog whose duties usually didn’t include engaging with suspects, so Coleman’s car didn’t have any of the usual K-9 equipment.
Had anyone else’s dog died as a result of being left in a car, it would almost certainly been seen as an example of callous neglect. However, following Mason’s death, the Gulf Shores Police Department issued a statement describing it as an unfortunate mishap:
“This is a tragic occurrence that has left the entire organization mourning a terrible loss,” it said. “It also illustrates how easy it is to become distracted, and how quickly heat can affect those that we love that are particularly vulnerable to it.”
Initially, the D.A. said that no charges would be filed. That changed on Tuesday, however, when the grand jury was announced. The D.A.’s office now says that charges may be filed against Coleman depending on the jury’s decision.
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