PHOENIX – Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery announced that there is insufficient evidence to establish a reasonable likelihood of conviction on animal cruelty charges involving the death of Department of Corrections Officer Jesse Dorantes’ K9 service dog. Ike, a 7.5-year-old K9, was found deceased last month in the rear compartment of Officer Dorrantes’ assigned patrol vehicle after Officer Dorrantes returned the vehicle to the DOC motor pool parking lot and returned home to care for a sick child. The patrol vehicle had been parked and left unattended for approximately seven hours.
“This was a tragic accident that was preventable and, perhaps to many people, unforgivable. But based on our review of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident, the available evidence does not provide a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Montgomery said.
In reaching his decision, the County Attorney reviewed previous cases handled by the office involving similar circumstances, including a prosecution that ended in the acquittal of a Chandler police officer whose K9 died after being left in a hot vehicle. “In comparing the two cases, we have even less favorable evidence now than what was presented in that previous matter,” Montgomery said.
At 6:00 a.m. on April 9, 2014, Officer Dorantes reported to work at Arizona State Prison Complex – Lewis. Prior to his arrival, he contacted his supervisor to alert him that his child was ill and could not be left at day care. After arriving at work, Dorantes took his assigned patrol vehicle to the kennels to pick up Ike. He put Ike in the vehicle with the motor and air conditioning turned on while he went back into the facility to clean Ike’s kennel. Shortly thereafter, his supervisor contacted him and told him he could go home. Dorantes then drove his patrol vehicle back to the prison’s motor pool lot where he parked and locked it and got into his personal vehicle to drive home. Later that day, he realized he may have left Ike in the patrol vehicle and immediately called his supervisor to check on Ike’s welfare. Ike was subsequently discovered deceased in the back of Officer Dorantes’ patrol vehicle.
Investigators noted that Ike was a quiet dog and would not have made noise or been active in the back of the vehicle. When interviewed, Officer Dorantes expressed deep remorse and was forthcoming about his actions. A Department of Corrections administrative investigation into the incident is pending.