WARWICK, Ga. -- The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the circumstances leading to the death of a canine connected to the Warwick Police Department last month, officials say.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the Georgia Humane Society is looking for the handler of the animal, a narcotics detector dog named Sasha, to possibly have felony charges filed against him. A representative from the Humane Society could not be reached for comment Friday.
When The Albany Herald called the Warwick Police Department regarding the matter, a city clerk directed the reporter to City Attorney Tommy Coleman. Coleman said that Warwick Police Chief David Morris asked him for counsel on the situation, after which he advised that letters be written to Tifton Judicial Circuit District Attorney Paul Bowden, the GBI and the Worth County Sheriff's Office regarding the situation.
The incident, Coleman said, happened in the unincorporated area of Worth County, and that the officer -- Lt. Thomas Frye -- was using the dog on behalf of the city while keeping her at his residence. He was also provided a kennel for the animal.
"What the officer has told us is that the dog was afraid of lightning, and that she opened the car and got in and couldn't get back out," Coleman said.
If charges were to be brought against Frye in connection to Sasha's passing, Coleman said it would likely have to be proven that the officer intended to cause the dog's death.
Bowden said Friday that the GBI has been asked to investigate the matter. Once some information comes through from the agency, he said he would then decide whether to pursue any prosecution in the case.
A spokeswoman from the GBI office in Sylvester said that the investigation was in its initial stages and that there would not be any information to report on the case until next week.
A report on the incident states that at 5:45 p.m. on Sept. 3, Morris received a call from Frye, who advised that he had started to get into his patrol vehicle, a Chevrolet Tahoe, when he noticed Sasha dead in the front seat.
The report goes on to say that the dog had gotten into the vehicle over the weekend while he was out of town and it was left unsecured in the officer's yard. It further stated that the city's maintenance worker was called in to help remove the animal and bury her in Frye's backyard.
The vehicle, the report says, was taken to a secured storage yard to be aired out. When officials later went to check the vehicle, they found it to be full of large flies and have a strong smell of decay.
Officials also reportedly saw signs that Sasha had tried to escape, including bite marks on the driver's seat with missing leather, scratches on the windows and both doors, a chewed driver's side seat belt, a damaged printer box, a torn passenger side visor, scratch marks around the bottom of both interior doors and the rearview mirror torn from the windshield.
Rather than possibly be fired as a result of the incident, Frye opted to resign from the police department, Coleman said.