News 5 has learned that charges are possible against a Gulf Shores police officer who left his police dog in a hot patrol car, leading to his death.
Corporal Josh Coleman’s actions are currently under investigation and formal charges are possible, News 5 was told. The investigation will be brought to a Baldwin County Grand Jury for review.
News 5 spoke with Gulf Shores Police Sgt. Jason Woodruff, who said the dog was a valuable member of the department.
“While he was not used to find drugs or people his big thing, he was basically a bridge between the police department and the community,” says Woodruff.
As we reported on Monday, Coleman left his community relations dog “Mason” inside his vehicle on Thursday after attending the Hurricane Prep conference in Gulf Shores.
“He was going to take care of some paperwork in his office and he straight up forgot him,” says Woodruff. “Left him in the car.”
Upon discovering Mason was still inside, the dog — who was not an enforcement K-9, but used instead for community relations — was in a deteriorated state, requiring immediate medical attention.
Coleman rushed Mason to a local veterinarian’s office, where he was then transported to a facility in Pensacola for extensive treatment. However Mason went into respiratory failure Friday night and passed away.
Executive Director of the Baldwin County Humane Society Stephen Savage calls the death a tragedy that never should have happened.
“If you are a police officer or a regular citizen you cannot leave an animal in the car or a child or an elderly person in a car and walk away and forget about it, it’s just not right. It’s negligence and it should be taken care of,” says Savage.
For Coleman, Mason was like a family pet who worked at the police department occasionally. “It was a terrible mistake,” says Woodruff. “Accidental but terrible.”
Coleman has been sanctioned by the police department but what those sanctions entail are not being released to the public.
“We’re very sorry. Josh is very sorry,” according to Woodruff.
“This situation has been devastating for Cpl. Coleman and his family and we hope that they are able to work through their understandable emotions. This is a tragic occurrence that has left the entire organization mourning a terrible loss,” a statement in the press release read.
Because Mason was a community relations dog and not an enforcement dog with the Gulf Shores Police Department, Corporal Coleman’s vehicle didn’t carry equipment to relieve a dog from prolonged heat exposure.
“Mason was not an enforcement K-9. Enforcement K-9‘s spend a good deal of time in their handler’s vehicles, so those vehicles are equipped with remote heat alarms, water bowls., and other protective measures. Because Mason’s duties did not include long periods in a vehicle, those protective measures were not available in his handler’s car.”