74ºF

Police say Hialeah police officer worked longer than normal shift before leaving K-9s in SUV

Dogs found dead by Officer Nelson Enriquez early Wednesday night

(Courtesy: Facebook)

HIALEAH, Fla. – New details were released Thursday about two Hialeah police dogs who died after being left in an officer's police-issued SUV outside his home in Davie.

During a news conference, Hialeah police Sgt. Carl Zogby said Nelson Enriquez left his two K-9s in the SUV after working a midnight shift Wednesday. Police said after his shift, Enriquez helped assist in a missing person's case and arrived at his Davie home about mid-morning.

The dogs were found by Enriquez in the early evening. Police said Enriquez is devastated.

"This officer Enriquez lives in a wonderful home in Davie," Zogby said. "He's got a big backyard, he's got two beautiful kennels in his backyard and he definitely loves and pampers his dogs. They do and can live in the house. He can put them in the kennel when the weather's right, but no, they lived in the house with the officer. They're full members of the family. In fact, I'm hearing his children wouldn't go to sleep if the dogs weren't in the house."

Enriquez has been the only handler of Jimmy, a 7-year-old bloodhound, and Hector, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinouix. Jimmy was Hialeah's only K-9 bloodhound on the force, and was given to them 6 and a half years ago by the Jimmy Ryce foundation.

Hialeah police said the foundation will work to get them another bloodhound in the future.

The head of the foundation, Don Ryce, released a statement Thursday morning saying in part, "I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of two remarkable police dogs from the Hialeah Police Department, Jimmy and Hector. The Jimmy Ryce Center donated Jimmy, the bloodhound, to the Hialeah Police Department seven years ago. Our mission is stronger than ever, and with the public's help, we hope to be able to raise funds to replace these dogs."

Police said the dogs were well cared for and said the officer was on the K-9 force for seven years with a commendable record. But police also acknowledged that the duties and responsibilities of a K-9 officer are 24-7 because the animals live with their handlers.

Local 10 News reporter Todd Tongen spoke to several of the officer's neighbors, who were polarized on the issue. One man said the incident was an accident and not news. Meanwhile, others weren't so supportive of the officer.

"I love animals and I love police officers for what they do to protect us, but that guy needs to be charged with murder. There is no excuse for that. No excuse whatsoever," a neighbor said.

Davie police said Enriquez will get no special treatment in the investigation.

"We are investigating like any other animal case," Sgt. Pablo Castaneda said.

"They will make the final determination whether this was an accident, or if this was any sort of abuse or neglect," Zogby said.

Enriquez has been relieved of duty with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Davie police took both animals to Gainesville Thursday afternoon for a necropsy at the University of Florida. The K-9s received a motorman escort with a Hialeah police honor guard for the trip.

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10