CASPER, Wyo. — The Mills Police Department plans to construct a bronze statue of its former K-9 officer Nyx, who died last month after being left in a hot patrol car for six hours, Police Chief Bryon Preciado said Tuesday.
The police department has already received offers from citizens who want to donate money for a monument in honor of the police dog, Preciado said. The department plans to start a fundraising campaign for the statue, which would be unveiled during a public memorial service for Nyx.
“We don’t want people to turn it into something that it’s not,” Preciado said. “It’s something for Nyx. We want everybody to get along and be respectful.”
Mills police officer Zachary Miller allegedly left Nyx, a drug detection dog, in his patrol car for more than six hours while the vehicle was parked outside the police department July 9, according to an investigator’s affidavit filed in Natrona County Circuit Court. The car was running, but the air conditioning was off and the windows were rolled up.
Miller discovered Nyx was dead when he returned to his car. The outside temperature had gone from 53 to 86 degrees, according to the affidavit.
An online petition is asking the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office to increase Miller’s charge from misdemeanor animal cruelty to a killing a police animal, a felony level charge. The felony charge claims a person acted willfully to cause the death of a police dog, but District Attorney Mike Blonigen said there is no evidence Miller acted with intention.
“While we do not believe officers willingly killed the K9 unit we believe they knowingly left Nyx in a life threatening situation which resulted in his (sic) death,” the petition states.
The petition had garnered more than 175 signatures by Tuesday evening.
“The DA did the proper charge on that,” Preciado said. “If it doesn’t fit, you can’t force it.”
The Mills Police Department K-9 program is temporarily suspended while policies are reviewed. Preciado said the police department will reach out to other law enforcement agencies with K-9 programs to learn what policies they use.
Mark Rispoli, owner of Makor K-9 in Napa, Calif., sold Nyx to the police department in 2006 for $6,000, Preciado said.
“It’s just common sense that you don’t leave a dog in a running vehicle for over six hours unattended,” Rispoli said.
Rispoli trained Nyx for narcotic detection and trained her original handler at the Mills Police Department. Miller became Nyx’s handler two years ago.