Robert Kirby: Seeking justice for Dingo, a police dog killed in the line of duty

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

A week ago, I sat in a room packed with cops awaiting the sentencing of a 31-year-old habitual criminal convicted of killing a Unified Police Department K-9 in 2017.

Next to me was Herriman Deputy Chief Chad Reyes, who was Dingo’s partner the night the 7-year-old Belgian Malinois was gunned down. From the look on Chad’s face, he was interested in making sure justice was served.

It’s not right that the bad guy was driving around with a gun that night in 2017, that he led police on a high-speed chase, tried to run over them, ran on foot when they blocked him and, ultimately, shot the police dog sent to bring him down.

That was just a night’s work for the bad guy, who, since he turned 15, has been out of detention/prison/off parole for a combined 10 minutes.

In April, a jury found the killer guilty. Now it was time to ensure 3rd District Judge Paul Parker gave him what we figured he had coming.

We were also there to support Reyes, who gave an emotional statement on the loss of his friend and partner.

Although none of the cops was stupid enough to tell a guy from the media that they wanted the dog killer put to death, it was clear from the looks on their faces they wanted him to pay big time.

Me? I’m considerably more lenient when it comes to punishment. A dog is, after all, a dog, even one with a certified master’s degree in criminal science like Dingo.

In the interest of complete disclosure, I do not like Belgian Malinoises. More accurately, Belgian Mals don’t like me. As a breed, they are excellent judges of character and therefore hate my guts.

I have been bitten by a Belgian Malinois before. Granted, I was wearing a padded bite suit at the time, but even then it wasn’t fun.

After being run to the ground, I was bitten on the arm, leg and back in rapid succession. It was an enthusiastic series of clamps that I semi-hysterically interpreted as a frantic search for my unprotected head.

Never mind that. I was there to make sure the judge played fair by the criminal. I already had jotted some notes as to what I considered proper sentences that would help rehabilitate the guy.

Rather than see the offender hang, I thought it more appropriate that whatever prison term he was sentenced to should be instructively spent stark naked in an unheated kennel.

The prisoner also should be required to subsist on dry dog food, with just the occasional equally dry treat tossed in for those moments of rare but good behavior.

For entertainment, the inmate would be provided a rubber chew toy. Once a week, he would be taken out of the kennel and allowed to chase a tennis ball while wearing a shock collar.

Any serious violation of prison rules — like chewing the pants off a warden or a corrections officer — would require the prisoner to serve as an unpadded training dummy for police dogs working on their associate or bachelor’s degrees.

None of these creative sentences occurred to Judge Parker, who is restrained by actual law. He sentenced the convicted criminal to a minimum of 11 years in prison.

A hearing for restitution — trained police dogs are frighteningly expensive because of student loans — was scheduled for another time.

None of this, of course, will bring back Dingo. His former partner and K-9 friends will miss him for the rest of their lives.

With any luck, the criminal who took his life will spend that same amount of time wishing he had missed him as well.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.