In June 2006, a group of Miami-Dade police k-9 handlers were having a training session with their dogs. Sgt. Allen Cockfield, an experienced handler, was participating with his new dog Duke. During that training session, Mr. Cockfield kicked Duke to death in front of the other officers. He has since been fired by the department.
A year long investigation followed the killing and in 2007, Mr. Cockfield was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty and a felony count of killing a police dog. The trial opened this week and the case is being prosecuted by Miami-Dade prosecutor Isis Perez:
Perez told jurors that Duke was not obeying commands. Enraged, Cockfield picked the dog up by the leash, leaving the canine hanging from his choke collar, she said.
That’s when Cockfield delivered three to five kicks, all witnessed by a slew of fellow officers, she said.
Miami-Dade K-9 Officer Andy Giordani, testifying first, held up a black leash and chain collar to mimic what he saw, booting the wooden jury box with loud, fierce thumps.
As Cockfield let Duke slip to the ground, Giordani looked away briefly, then looked back when he heard “a moan.”
“He stiffened his hind legs, shaking as he was going into some sort of seizure, and a few seconds later he became numb, and that was it,” Giordani said of Duke.
The defense paints a different picture – that Mr. Cockfield felt threatened by Duke and was trying to save himself. And that the kicks were “soft” because, as the attorney points out:
“How much leverage can you have when you’re holding a 70-pound dog?”
My interpretation of the defense’s version of events is that Mr. Cockfield strung Duke up by the neck and then, while the slip chain choked him, softly kicked him until he died.
For the record, if you ever feel threatened by a dog while you are in a group of police k-9 handlers, you can consider your life “saved” once you’ve got the dog strung up. Surely your fellow officers will quickly intervene to prevent the dog from killing you. No need to kick the dog to death – softly or otherwise.
Not that I’m inclined to believe the defense, mind you. But I’m not on the jury. The trial is set to resume today.