The Pinal County Attorney declined to prosecute Maricopa police Officer Craig Curry in the death of his K-9 partner, Ike.
The decision came in the wake of a state Department of Public Safety investigation into a June 26 incident at police headquarters that would result in the humane euthanization of the ailing K-9 about 11 hours later.
In a letter to Chief Steve Stahl, dated Sept. 24, Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said the Critical Incident Review Board in his office had reviewed the police and medical reports of Ike’s death involving Curry “as documented in the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s DR# AZI20031503.”
It was the board’s opinion, based on the information in the DPS criminal investigation report, “that Officer Curry did not commit any act that warrants criminal prosecution,” Volkmer wrote.
InMaricopa obtained the redacted report from DPS on Oct. 29 through a public records request filed Sept. 8. There are no obvious redactions in the 136-page report, titled “K-9 Ike Death Investigation,” compiled by the department’s Special Investigation Unit.
Curry’s attorney, Chad Smith of the Yen Pilch & Landeen law firm in Phoenix, did not return a call for comment.
Stahl said Friday with the DPS criminal investigation wrapped up and the County Attorney deciding not to prosecute, a department investigation of the incident is “well underway.”
“The facts are being investigated internally,” he said, adding Curry’s behavior will be looked at along with related department policies, protocol and practices.
Stahl said he “sincerely appreciated DPS doing such a comprehensive investigation” of the June 26 incident, which he called a “tragic situation.”
About 4:40 p.m. that Friday, during a break in a meeting, Curry went out to his Ford F-150 patrol vehicle to check on Ike, the 9-year-old Dutch Shepherd that had spent the last seven years as his partner. The pair had arrived just before 3 p.m. Curry entered the building and left the dog in his kennel in the back of the vehicle, a standard K-9 practice, in the south parking lot.
Though Curry would later say he left the vehicle running with the air conditioning on, windows up and doors locked, when he returned to his truck that afternoon, the vehicle was not running. He threw open the rear door to find his partner suffering from heat stroke. The outside temperature was about 107 degrees.
By then, Ike was in the vehicle about 107 minutes, though it is unclear from the investigation how long the engine and air conditioning were not running.
Curry and a fellow officer rushed Ike to Maricopa Wells Animal Hospital for treatment. After he was stabilized, the K-9 was taken by ambulance to an emergency veterinary hospital in Gilbert, where his condition declined. He was humanely euthanized at 3:45 a.m. on June 27. Curry and other department personnel were with him.
‘HE IS HURTING’
It remains unclear if the rear windows were down on the patrol vehicle, with three of Curry’s fellow officers who helped in the frantic effort to cool down the K-9 telling investigators they were unable to recall if the windows were up or down.
It is certain, however, the K-9 heat safety system outfitted on MPD vehicle #492 did not activate. If the engine was running, then stalled, the system would have activated, rolling down both rear windows, activating a rear fan and sounding a horn. If the system had worked, a pager transmitter installed in the vehicle would have immediately signaled a receiver worn by the handler every 30 seconds of the potentially deadly situation.
But some components of the AceK-9 Hot-N-Pop Pro emergency system were not going to operate as designed that day. The report seems contradictory on the location of the pager receiver for the system. The investigative report indicates the pager was still attached to Curry’s vest or duty belt, which were in the vehicle. But the system’s inventor, John Johnston of Stuart, Florida, who inspected the vehicle and the system on July 4 at the request of DPS, found the transmitter in the driver’s door, its batteries dead and the power switch set to “vibrate only.”
Johnston found other equipment problems. The pager transmitter, located behind the driver’s seat, was unscrewed and disconnected from its antenna, which would have dramatically reduced the range of an emergency signal sent to the pager receiver, from as much as 3,000 feet to less than 100 feet, he said. A combination Pager/Door Popper roof antenna was missing as well, he found.
With those problems addressed, Johnston tested the system and found it working properly.
On Friday, Stahl said Ike’s death “hurts the department, this officer very much.”
He said he hoped the community would have compassion.
“He is hurting,” Stahl said of Curry. “He lost one of his family.”