SALT LAKE CITY — Chad Reyes remembers almost everything about the last time he saw his friend and partner alive.
He recalls feeling the weight of the police dog’s paw on his shoulder, seeing the animal sprint and grab hold of a parolee wanted on warrants, then watching as the fugitive and K-9 tumbled out of sight and over a hillside just before gunshots rang out, Reyes said in a Salt Lake City courtroom Monday.
Torey Massey, 31, of West Jordan, showed little emotion moments later as 3rd District Judge Paul Parker sentenced him to at least 11 years and up to life for the death of Dingo, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois who was nearing retirement from the Unified Police Department.
Reyes recalled the dog rushing to his side with a wide-open mouth and pleading eyes in the early hours of July 6, 2017. Fearful for his own life, the officer scanned tall weeds for Massey, who had evaded police a short time earlier. Reyes and a crew of officers later rushed Dingo to a veterinary hospital, but it was too late to save the dog he worked, lived, trained and vacationed with.
“I’ve witnessed many traumatic incidents throughout my 21 years as a cop and 10 years in the military, but nothing else even remotely compares to trauma inflicted upon me and my children by Torey Massey,” Reyes said. Feelings of rage, guilt, depression and extreme grief “are forever burned into my being now,” he said.
In April, a jury returned several guilty verdicts against Massey after about two hours of deliberation. He was convicted of two counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a first-degree felony, and killing a police service animal, a third-degree felony. He was also found guilty of two counts of failing to stop at an officer’s command.
On Monday, Reyes and prosecutors urged the judge to order consecutive prison sentences for Massey, who they said has a history of at-times violent crimes and no capacity for empathy. They have previously said Massey gave Reyes a taunting smirk before the K-9 lunged at him.
A shackled Massey wore a white prison uniform and glasses and issued a brief apology to Reyes.
“I took his friend, his partner,” Massey said. “He may not forgive me but I hope one day he does.” His defense attorney Charles Corry said his client has schizophrenia. At the time of Dingo’s death, he had stopped taking his medications and was using drugs.
“I think he definitely had difficulty understanding what was taking place,” Corry said. He added Massey now understands the weight of what he did.
Reyes, now deputy chief of the Herriman Police Department, said he has never found the words to fully describe the bond between an officer and his service dog, who he said learn to anticipate each other’s thoughts and movements “so precisely they could be called truly symbiotic, as if they could actually read one another’s minds. Dingo genuinely became a part of my own self, and in losing him, a part of me was lost as well.”
The judge said he would acknowledge the loss felt by Reyes in extending the maximum time Massey could face on the service animal conviction to a possible 10 years. Under Utah law, judges may order such enhanced penalties when an offender is barred from legally possessing a gun but uses one in a crime.
In addition to the term of one to 10 years, Parker ordered two separate back-to-back sentences of five years to life on the firearm counts. He allowed lesser prison terms for the remaining counts to run concurrently, or at the same time.
“As far as everyone in this courtroom is concerned, he shot a police officer that night,” said prosecutor Andrew Deesing. If Dingo hadn’t been there, Deesing said Masey would likely have shot an officer, a claim Corry disputed.
Dingo and another slain Unified police K-9, Aldo, inspired Utah 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. Reyes said other states, including Florida, have also toughened the penalty in recent years.