Iowa K-9 officer Bear died after spending nearly 24 hours in patrol vehicle, warrant says




Boone Sheriff Deputy Dallas Wingate is pictured with his former K-9 officer, Bandit, in 2018.
Boone Sheriff Deputy Dallas Wingate is pictured with his former K-9 officer, Bandit, in 2018.  

Bear, a K-9 officer with the Boone County Sheriff's Office, died in September after he was left in his handler's patrol vehicle for nearly 24 hours, new court documents reveal.

The search warrant, made public last week, shows Bear was found dead in Sgt. Dallas Wingate's truck after being left in it from approximately 10 p.m. Sept. 1 to 8 p.m. Sept. 2.

Story County Attorney Tim Meals, who is taking over the case over concerns of conflict of the interest, said his office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are investigating Bear's death. Meals and Iowa DCI will decide whether charges are filed against Wingate.

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He could not give a timeline for when the investigation would be complete.

Wingate, an experienced K-9 handler whose former partner, Bandit, helped find Iowa State University golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena's killer, resigned from the Boone County Sheriff's Office, effective Sept. 8. He had been placed on administrative leave a few days prior.

Warrant: K-9 Bear found dead in officer's patrol vehicle

In his search warrant, Iowa DCI Major Crimes Unit Special Agent Marc Ridout said the investigation revealed Wingate placed Bear in the truck at approximately 10 p.m. Sept. 1. When Wingate went out to feed his other dogs at approximately 8 p.m. Sept. 2, he discovered Bear wasn't in the outdoor dog run.

At that time, Wingate remembered he had put Bear in his patrol truck the previous night because the dog was barking at a deer, according to the warrant.

"Wingate discovered K-9 Officer Bear deceased at that time," the report says.

The high temperature on Sept. 2 was 89 degrees, according to Iowa State Climatologist Justin Glisan. Glisan said the temperature inside a vehicle would have risen to between 130 and 135 degrees within one hour in that temperature.

Iowa DCI declined to share the necropsy report, which would reveal a cause of death, citing the active investigation. But according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, hot temperatures inside a car can lead to an animal suffering heatstroke resulting in serious injury or death. The AVMA reports that leaving windows cracked open doesn't lower temperatures inside a car.

Wingate called Sheriff Gregg Elsberry at approximately 8:07 p.m. Sept. 2, but he didn't answer the phone, according to the report. Wingate called again at 8:12 p.m. and reached the sheriff.

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Elsberry transported Bear to the Boone Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Elizabeth McClure then transported Bear to the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy, which is an autopsy for animals.

On Sep. 3, Ridout arrived at Wingate's residence for an interview. Ridout noticed a Blink security camera attached to an electric pole that "would have shown the patrol truck while it was parked outside the residence," the warrant says. Ridout noticed the camera was still there Sept. 6.

Wingate said the camera system had not been operating for a couple of months. He attempted to access the system on his cell phone but was unsuccessful.

Ridout then filed the search warrant Oct. 26 to Amazon.com, which owns Blink, for access to the camera's footage.

"I know that persons will often maintain audio recordings, digital photographs and digital videos in a cloud-based system that is controlled by a third entity," he wrote. "I know that this type of information is routinely kept for extended periods of time."

The search of the account covered the range of Sept 1 to Sept. 3, but came up with "no responsive video records for the account of Dallas Wingate."

Those results were filed with Iowa's Fifth Judicial District on Nov. 22. Magistrate Adam D. Hanson initially shielded the warrant from public view, but it was released Dec. 1.

While the incident happened in Boone County, county attorney Matt Speers has asked Story County to take over the case.

"When there is an actual conflict or the appearance of a conflict, it's not unusual to request a neighboring county to handle the prosecution side of the case," Speers said. "I felt there could be at least an appearance of conflict."

Elsberry, the Boone County sheriff, also recently resigned from office two years before his term ends. No reason has publicly been given for his departure. He submitted his resignation Nov. 9 and his last day is Dec. 31.

Teresa Kay Albertson covers politics, crime, courts and local government in Ames and central Iowa for the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register. Reach her on Twitter @TeresaAlberts11 and at talbertson@registermedia.com, 515-419-6098.

This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Iowa police dog, Bear, died after being left in hot patrol truck

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