An Iowa deputy is under criminal investigation after his police K-9 partner died after being left in his patrol vehicle for almost a full day — on a day when experts say temperatures likely reached triple digits inside the vehicle.
The police dog, Bear — who served as a K-9 officer at the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, an area just north of Des Moines — died in September, new court documents reveal.
A search warrant, made public last week, shows Bear was found dead in Sgt. Dallas Wingate’s truck after being left in for about 22 hours, from 10 p.m. on Sept. 1 to about 8 p.m. on 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. Meals and the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation will decide whether charges are filed against Wingate.
He could not give a timeline for when the investigation would be complete.
Wingate, an experienced K-9 handler, resigned from the sheriff’s office after the incident. His former K-9 partner, Bandit, helped find a suspect in the killing of Iowa State University golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena in 2018.
Temps likely reached 130 degrees inside Iowa deputy’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, the warrant says.
Wingate then remembered he had put Bear in his patrol truck the previous night because the dog was barking at a deer, according to the warrant.
When he went to the truck, he found Bear was dead, the report says, adding the deputy called Sheriff Gregg Elsberry minutes later.
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 if it was 89 degrees outside.
State investigators declined to share the necropsy report, which would reveal a cause of death, citing the active investigation. But the American Veterinary Medical Association says hot temperatures inside a car can lead to an animal suffering heatstroke that can cause serious or fatal injuries. The organization said even cracking open a window won’t lower temperatures inside a vehicle.
Elsberry took the dog to a local veterinary hospital then to Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy.
Magistrate Adam Hanson initially shielded the search 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 at the time of the incident, 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.