Licking County Ok-9 handler resigns amid investigation into canine’s loss of life

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Licking County Deputy Representative Dirk Williamson poses for a photo with the K-9 Apollo. (Photo: Licking Sheriff’s Office)

NEWARK – The Licking County Sheriff’s Office plans to bring a case to the prosecutor’s office after the former K-9 officer allegedly forged records of his K-9’s death and training earlier this year.

LCSO Sgt. Mark Brown was asked to investigate the death of the K-9 Apollo in early February, according to an internal investigation The Advocate received through a quarterly record request.

More: Licking County K-9 Apollo dies after escaping the handler who was apparently hit by a vehicle

On February 1, the Licking County Sheriff’s office announced that the K-9 Apollo had died and apparently been hit by a vehicle in front of its handler, Assistant Dirk Williamson, after a nightly business trip.

The agency reported Williamson was trying to secure the K-9 at his Franklin County home when the dog escaped. He was later found near 7290 Havens Corners Road in Franklin County and taken to a nearby veterinary clinic by his handler.

The agency said Apollo served in the sheriff’s office and in Licking County for six years prior to his death.

According to research, Brown received two calls to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office regarding the K-9, one from Williamson and one from the officer’s wife.

According to the report, the woman called around 9:07 a.m. on Feb. 1 and said her husband’s K-9 had gotten away from him that morning and asked if anyone was available to help find the dog help. When asked about the last time the couple saw him, she said she wasn’t sure but her husband just called her in desperation and it was probably several hours ago.

According to the report, Williamson called the Franklin County Sheriff’s office at around 9:21 a.m. that morning and said Apollo was “blown” when he got him out of the car.

Referring to an incident report from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Brown said two Franklin County MPs found Apollo about five feet from Havens Corner Road with no signs of life or apparent physical injuries.

On February 9, Brown said he met with the homeowner near where the K-9 was found, and the woman reported that she and her husband were out for their morning walk around 8:30 a.m. on February 1, when she saw the dog.

“I kind of saw him out of the corner of my eye and didn’t pay much attention at first. It was covered in snow,” the report said. “I could see almost like an ear, his tail, a leg. It was 80 or 90% snow-covered.”

When asked about the weather that day, the woman said it was snowing, but not much more than thunderstorms. She estimated it had taken several hours, if not overnight, the dog had been there. Despite first impressions that the dog was covered in fallen snow, the woman told Brown that the dog could possibly be covered in snow from a plow.

A neighbor said he went to breakfast around 7:45 a.m. on February 1 and saw a German shepherd near his neighbor’s driveway. He noticed that the dog was covered in snow, but he could tell it was a dog.

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During an interview with a Franklin County Sheriff’s Office MP who responded to the search, Brown said the MP found a “lump in the snow” and could see some fur, but the dog was completely covered in snow. The MP said he thought the dog was covered in snow, unlike a plow, because the snow was not “piled up somewhere”.

The MP said it had snowed in the area the night before but did not snow that day during his shift from 7 a.m. He estimated that the dog had been there “overnight for a good part of the night”.

During a phone interview on Feb.17 with a veterinarian from the hospital where Apollo was taken, Brown said Apollo’s card said the K-9 was presented dead on arrival at the facility and died at least an hour before arrival if not longer. The vet said rigor mortis had set in, which would normally take 45 minutes to an hour, but temperatures could speed up the process.

During an interview with Williamson on Feb. 19, Brown said Williamson reported he came home around 8:05 a.m. that morning and let Apollo out of the cruiser. He said the dog ran away after something and didn’t respond to commands or his electric collar.

According to the investigative report, during the interview, Williamson said he called his wife and the K-9 trainer along with Franklin County to help locate the dog. When they found him, Williamson said the dog did not move and had some snow on it but was not covered in snow as the neighbors had reported.

When Brown noticed that when he called Williamson’s wife in Franklin County, it appeared that the dog had been out all night, he said Williamson replied that the dog hadn’t been out all night and had just picked up that morning, but his wife hasn’t seen Apollo since Williamson went to work.

During the interview, Brown reported that he asked Williamson about his training and the fact that he has twice as many hours of training as some of the other handlers and what the state requires. According to the report, Williamson said he was told that handlers could train as much as they wanted and that there was a big difference between dogs that trained every week and dogs that trained every other week. He added that he wanted him and Apollo to be the best handler dog pair they could be, so that they would exercise as much as possible.

When asked about the training materials, the investigative report said Williamson had sometimes said he was lagging behind in recording the records for her training.

Brown reported on Feb. 23 that he became aware of a photo that appears to be Apollo and was taken with a video doorbell near the porch of a house on Clearview Street in Blacklick at around 1:02 a.m. on Feb.1 .

Later that day, Brown told the agency’s union representative that he had received more information about the investigation and needed to schedule another interview with Williamson. Brown noted that an email had been forwarded to him stating that William had submitted a letter of resignation on February 26th.

According to a copy of the resignation letter made available to The Advocate upon filing request, Williamson emailed LCSO on Feb.25, quoting that his resignation was due to recent health issues.

“After 21 years of working and serving the people of Licking County whom I have loved dearly, it is heartbreaking,” he wrote. “Thank you for the opportunity to have worked with some of the best men and women for the best communities.”

On Wednesday, Col. Chad Dennis told The Advocate that their agency would take the case to the Licking County Attorney’s Office to see if any charges would be incurred. He said the internal investigation revealed that Williamson had forged official documents related to his testimony of the K-9 Apollo death and training records.

“We felt that his part of the official documents was somewhat untruthful,” said Dennis. “There were some other disagreements and things that he filed for us, so let’s let the prosecutor take a look and see.”

Dennis said Williamson had been with the agency for 21 years and had no other disciplinary history. Williamson, he said, has worked as a patrol K-9 handler for the past several years.

He said he doesn’t think the investigation would have any impact on legal proceedings, and he doesn’t think Williamson has been assigned to any pending court.

According to Dennis, the agency has identified a replacement K-9 handler and is in the process of searching for a new K-9. Currently, the Licking County Sheriff’s Office has one K-9 assigned to a patrol unit and two assigned narcotics by the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Williamson could not be reached for comment as of the attorney’s deadline.

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