Two dogs died in a police SUV operated by Police Officer Nelson Enriquez of Florida's Hialeah Police Deparment on May 27.
Hialeah's Honor Guard escorted the dogs' carcasses from a vet's office to the University of Florida in Gainesville on May 28. The dogs will be examined in a lab for their exact cause of death (video below).
Enriquez left a bloodhound and a Belgian malinois in his Ford Explorer police car early on May 27 after his night shift, but when he returned to the car several hours later, both dogs were dead, reported the Miami Herald.
Hialeah police say Enriquez's shift ended at 7 a.m., after which he reportedly returned home in the mid-morning hours and left the dogs in the car for four or five hours. Davie, Florida, police were contacted by Enriquez at 6:50 p.m., leaving hours of time unaccounted for.
Enriquez was placed on suspension with pay while Davie and Hialeah police investigate the incident.
Hialeah Police Sgt. Carl Zogby told the Miami Herald that Enriquez is "extremely distraught," but couldn't say why Enriquez took so long to contact authorities about the dead dogs.
Zogby added that there will be a memorial service in Hialeah when the dogs' carcasses are brought back from Gainesville.
The New Times Broward-Palm Beach notes that civilians often get harsh prison sentences for killing police dogs:
Just last year in Palm Beach County, 17-year-old Ivins Rosier was sentenced to 23 years in prison ... In 2009, a diagnosed schizophrenic from Washington got a life sentence for killing a canine cop that was running toward him while he hid in a gulch ... In 2014, a South Carolina man fleeing from police after committing an armed robbery was attacked by a police dog. The man shot the dog several times. When he was eventually caught, each bullet he fired he fired was considered an attempted murder charge, in addition to the charge of killing the dog. He got 35 years.
If Enriquez were to be charged in the dogs' deaths, he would likely be cited for a third-degree felony under Florida statute 843.19, which would result in "a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine," according to the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.