Multiple online petitions are calling for stiffer penalties for the killing of a police K-9, including one from a Pennsylvania man seeking “justice” for Canton Police K-9 Jethro, who was shot and killed in the line of duty.
According to the change.org page, Thomas Fuehrer is petitioning that 22-year-old burglary suspect Kelontre Barefield, who is accused of shooting Jethro, face harsher charges similar to those the suspect would face if he had fatally shot a police officer.
Barefield is accused of shooting 3-year-old Jethro while responding to the burglary call at Fisher Foods with police on Jan. 9.
Police said three rounds struck the dog during the incident. He died the next day. Jethro was active with the Canton Police Department for nearly two years.
Killing a police dog is considered a third-degree felony in Ohio, and an individual could face up to three years in prison if convicted. The offense also carries possible fines of up to $10,000.
Barefield is being held in jail on a $5 million bond and is facing charges of assaulting a police dog and felonious assault on an officer, among other charges.
Fuehrer's petition states:
On January 9, 2016 while responding with his partner, Canton Ohio K9 Officer Jethro was shot in the line of duty by an armed robbery suspect. The suspect was apprehended shortly after the incident. Officer Jethro was rushed to the Emergency Veterinary Hospital and underwent surgery. On January 10, 2016, Officer Jethro succumbed to his injuries. K9 Officers are sworn Law Enforcement Officers, and when a K9 officer is assaulted or murdered, the charges should carry the exact same weight as any other Law Enforcement Officer. Currently, the laws do not support such charges, and together we can change this!! Please consider signing and forwarding this petition! Rest in Peace Officer Jethro.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had more than 2,000 signatures and aims to garner a total of 5,000.
Kristy Arvin, of Massillon, also began a petition on change.org for Jethro, calling on Ohio lawmakers to mandate life in prison for individuals convicted of killing police dogs. Arvin's petition has more than 13,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
Someone convicted of killing a police officer could face punishment as harsh as the death penalty in Ohio.
Cleveland State University law professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich said imposing capital punishment for killing a dog is likely unconstitutional, but said otherwise state legislatures have broad control over what kinds of punishments to impose.
"So they could certainly increase the penalty for killing a police dog, if they wanted to," Witmer-Rich said.
A spokesperson in Republican State Senator Scott Oelslager's office said he is drafting a bill to increase penalties for killing police dogs, but did not offer specifics.
Spokespersons for both Attorney General Mike DeWine and Governor John Kasich's offices said they would wait to see the legislation before forming an opinion.
Canton Police Chief Bruce Lawver said he supported moderately increasing penalties.
- Community comes together to honor Jethro
- Canton Police officer shares ‘tearjerker’ poem about K-9 service
- Burglary suspect accused of killing Canton K-9 appears in court
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