SALT LAKE CITY — A longtime officer fought tears Thursday as he recalled finding his police dog spinning in circles and gasping for air after being shot in a ravine two years ago.
"He saw me and ran to me as I ran down to meet him," Chad Reyes, a former Unified police sergeant, told a jury Thursday in Salt Lake City. "He was coming to me for comfort and for help."
Reyes had heard gunshots and yelping, but could not immediately tend to Dingo, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois. He believed the man now on trial in his dog's death might still be somewhere in the weeds and thistle near a Millcreek parking lot.
Once more officers arrived, several began searching for 30-year-old Torey Chase Massey and eventually arrested him. Others pushed Reyes up a muddy hill as he cradled Dingo, then rushed the dog and handler to a nearby veterinary hospital where the K-9 could not be revived.
A jury of eight women and one man listened, some nodding, as Reyes recounted spending 24 hours a day with Dingo, a decorated Unified service dog of five years who survived a bout with cancer and was nearing retirement.
Reyes, now deputy chief of the Herriman Police Department, recalled putting on his own uniform each morning before dressing Dingo in his. A pet at home and a partner in the field, Dingo understood the difference between his roles at home and at work, Reyes testified.
About 1 a.m. on July 6, 2017, a strike team with the U.S. Marshals Service spotted Massey, a parole fugitive wanted in a robbery and aggravated assault case, driving in Millcreek. When spike strips laid by police flattened his tires, Massey got out and ran before Dingo lunged and grabbed a hold of Massey's left side with his mouth, Reyes testified. Massey and the dog then tumbled down a steep slope.
Reyes said the dog sometimes wore a heavy ballistic vest, including for SWAT calls, but not for an entire shift on a hot summer day. A year later, the officer returned to the weed-covered patch and retrieved the bandage his colleague had used to triage the dog's wounds.
Massey, who is on trial accused of firing several rounds at the dog after giving Reyes a "taunting smirk," showed little emotion Thursday during at times tearful testimony. His attorney Matthew Barraza declined comment outside the courtroom.
The 30-year-old West Jordan parolee is charged with two counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a first-degree felony; and injuring a police service animal, a third-degree felony. He faces six other charges, some stemming from baggies of drugs and stolen belongings that police say they recovered from his car. He has pleaded not guilty to each charge.
In 2007, Massey was convicted of stabbing another man in the torso during an argument in West Jordan and was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
Dingo's death and the 2016 death of another Unified K-9, Aldo, inspired lawmakers last year to strengthen penalties for killing police service dogs. The offense is now a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Previously it was a third-degree felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.
The trial continues Friday, when attorneys are expected to make closing arguments.