Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forgot His Fellow Officer In The Car

Hundreds gather to honor fallen K-9 officer
Katie McDevitt, East Valley Tribune

Nearly 200 people and 50 dogs amassed Sunday evening to honor Bandit, a Chandler police K-9 who died when his trainer forgot him in a police vehicle.

The group held glowing candles Sunday evening at Chandler’s Shawnee Park while pet collars jingled and dogs barked.

“I tried to explain it to my buddy here, but he doesn’t understand,” said Cave Creek resident Fred Mueller, while looking down at his Golden Lab, Rolph. “It was an accident—poor guy.”

Community activists and Chandler Police Chief Sherry Kiyler attended the memorial organized by self-described animal lovers. Phoenix resident Glenn Hammond paid for the memorial along with his two friends Allison Teska, of Mesa, and Tricia Gillespie, of Phoenix.

“I could not understand, like much of the community, how this happened,” Hammond said. “Why we’re doing this? There’s really no answer other than we’re just unbelievably touched.”

Ever since the public learned of Bandit’s death, the community has led an emotionally charged attack on Sgt. Tom Lovejoy, who left the dog for about 13 hours in a police vehicle outside his home.

Leah Ayers of Gilbert said her initial anger at news of bandit’s death subsided to sadness. “I pulled up and I had tears in my eyes,” said the owner of three cats, who added that she would like to adopt a dog.

Many who came added flowers, trinkets and pictures to a makeshift memorial, including a dogless collar.

The Chandler Police Department is conducting an internal affairs investigation to determine if Lovejoy violated any policies. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has begun a criminal investigation since Lovejoy lives in a county island.

Chandler police spokesman Sgt. Rick Griner said the department intends to have a private memorial for Bandit.

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