ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque K-9 police officer Scott Weimerskirch, who devised the plan to take James Boyd into custody, and his dog, Rex, have both retired from the department, according to police.
But Rex’s future is far from promising.
He is not eligible for adoption, said Celina Espinoza, a department spokeswoman, and it is likely he will be euthanized.
“He is very work-oriented,” Espinoza said. “In the home of his handler is a very small child, and to train a dog to be around a child, and for a child to be around that dog, would be difficult. (Adoption) could have been looked into if the home scenario was different.”
However, she said, potential saviors stepped forward late Monday after hearing about Rex’s predicament.
“A former handler and a rescue group reached out to us, and will evaluate to see if those might be options for Rex,” she said.
Officer Weimerskirch and Rex were at the scene of Boyd’s illegal campsite in the Sandia foothills during the hourslong standoff in March 2014. Weimerskirch thought up the plan to get Boyd into custody, according to testimony in the criminal cases against two of the officers involved in the situation.
Officer Dominque Perez and former detective Keith Sandy have been charged with murder for shooting Boyd.
Weimerskirch testified that he planned to tell Boyd to gather his belongings and start walking down the hill. Then Sandy was going to throw a flash-bang grenade at Boyd, another officer would shoot him with a Taser, and Rex would be released to bite and hold onto him until they could take him into custody.
The plan failed, and Boyd was fatally shot.
Helmet video of the shooting led to national outrage and intensified community complaints about APD’s use of deadly force.
Weimerskirch was the final witness in the preliminary hearing against Sandy and Perez, who now are set to stand trial on second-degree murder charges.
Espinoza said Weimerskirch was eligible for retirement and decided it was time.
Rex, a 9-year-old Malinois, is being cared for by the city’s Animal Welfare Department, Espinoza said, and APD is waiting to see whether lawyers need him as the case against Perez and Sandy move through court.
“He is considered evidence, just like any other witness or other evidence would be,” she said.
Rex hasn’t worked much since the Boyd shooting a year and a half ago, Espinoza said.
She said K-9 dogs can sometimes be adopted out or their handlers can adopt them for $1, but it depends on the individual dog.
“The personality of dog really plays into it,” Espinoza said. “Some dogs put on a vest, know it’s time to go to work, take it off, know it’s time to not be at work. Other dogs are on 24/7.”
Dogs form very strong bonds with their handlers, however, and can be hard to retrain, even for other K-9 handlers, she said.
“As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” she said. “In his case, even more so because he’s so highly and specifically trained.”