Update: Documents released on Tuesday show that a San Juan K-9 dog died of a heat stroke after his handler forgot to take him out of a police unit.
According to the court documents, doctors with the Mission Veterinary Hospital stated that the K-9 dog named Rex was admitted with a 108 degree fever. The doctors say that since Rex was admitted two hours after being recovered from the vehicle, his temperature must have been much higher within the car.
Investigator Otto Villareal stated that according to the National Weather Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reports, temperatures climbed up to 91 degrees with a heat index of 100 degrees.
Rex’s handler is identified as 37-year-old Officer Juan Luis Cerrillo Jr.
Officer Cerrillo’s statement showed that he was gone for about an hour and a half before realizing he forgot Rex in his police unit. After taking Rex out of the car, Cerrillo placed him in the shade, poured water on his body, and attempted to save him by performing CPR.
Along with a criminal case, the San Juan policeman who left a department K-9 in the back of a city vehicle last week — killing the dog — also faces an internal investigation.
San Juan suspended police Officer Juan Luis Cerrillo Jr., 37, of McAllen without pay pending the criminal case and internal investigation
Cerrillo left Rex, a department K-9, in the back of an unmarked city vehicle on Thursday afternoon, according to information provided by the San Juan Police Department and the McAllen Police Department.
“Oftentimes we think ‘Oh, it’s only a couple of minutes. I’m only running in,'” said Rebeca Villanueva, the development director at the Palm Valley Animal Center in Edinburg. “The summers are so brutal that even a couple of minutes can be disaster for a pet’s health.”
Investigators charged Cerrillo with cruelty to non-livestock animals, a Class A misdemeanor. He’s free on a $4,000 public recognizance bond.
“It was an unfortunate accident,” said San Juan City Manager Ben Arjona.
San Juan police Chief Juan Gonzalez released a statement about the incident:
The San Juan Police Department is mourning the loss of K9 Rex. He held a special assignment with the police department as a multi-purpose K9 and was a great asset to us. He was a very special K9 and loved by all members of this department and this community. K9 Rex placed his life on the line many times to protect his fellow officers as a tactical dog. He will be laid to rest in an appropriate ceremony later this week. We will greatly miss him.
If convicted, Cerrillo would become ineligible to hold a peace officer license.
Cerrillo is a member of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, one of the state’s two major law enforcement unions.
“All of the facts are not in,” said association Executive Director Charley Wilkison. “We represent officers who receive great officers who receive great commendations from the community and we represent officers that have made mistakes.”
The San Juan Police Department is working on funeral arrangements for Rex.