Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Zephyrhills police mourn canine officer killed on duty

Zephyrhills police are taking Gunner’s death very hard, said a department spokesman.

Special to the Times

Zephyrhills police are taking Gunner’s death very hard, said a department spokesman.

ZEPHYRHILLS — It was dark and Gunner sprinted across the road, chasing after a burglar. An officer on the other side nabbed the suspect and Gunner's handler — Officer Joe Rinaldo — called the canine officer off. His job was done.

The black German shepherd stopped and searched for Rinaldo. He spotted him and was coming back across the road when he ran into the path of an SUV. Gunner was hit. Rinaldo and the other Zephyrhills Police Department officers saw it happen. There was nothing they could do.

Gunner died at the scene.

"He was a part of our family," said Lt. Derek Brewer. The incident happened at 1 a.m. Thursday on Gall Boulevard.

Gunner was Rinaldo's dog, his partner, going through countless hours of training and certification together, Brewer said. In 2007, they were commended for saving a man who tried to kill himself by overdosing on lithium. The man ran from his house and into the woods. Gunner tracked him down in time.

Brewer said everyone at the station was in shock Friday. This is the department's first canine officer to die in the line of duty. They are planning a memorial service for next week. A date has not been set. They have another canine officer, Janko. Brewer said they have talked about getting another one, but it's up to Rinaldo. He's taking Gunner's death hard. Brewer said he might not want another dog.

"We're trying to stay strong for him," Brewer said.

The break-in happened at a hearing aid store. The back locks were broken. A report says the two suspects took off — one carrying a stolen laptop computer — after they heard that a police dog was entering the building.

Both were arrested. Police said they are Kathleen J. Harpst, 36, and Charles Lee Boulanger, 51. They live together on North Avenue in Zephyrhills. Both list their jobs as "laborer." According to records, they were arrested together in late June — both on charges of shoplifting and resisting a merchant. Both pleaded no contest to the charges and got probation.

Thursday night they were charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools. They were also charged under the obstructing justice statute, which makes it a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison to kill or injure a police dog. They were being held in the Land O'Lakes jail in lieu of $15,000 bail.

Harpst declined to be interviewed. Boulanger agreed.

"I regret the loss of the dog, but I didn't even know a dog was chasing me," he said Friday afternoon in a room at the jail. He didn't want to talk about his guilt or innocence.

"I feel bad, but I can't talk about anything else," he said.

He said he and Harpst are engaged. He said he didn't see or hear what happened to Gunner. When asked about how the officers reacted after Gunner's death, Boulanger said, "Let's just say they were a little emotional, and we'll leave it at that."

Times researchers Will Gorham and Shirl Kennedy contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

fast facts

In memory

of Gunner

If you wish to send condolences to the Zephyrhills Police Department, the phone number is (813) 780-0050. The address is 6118 Eighth St., Zephyrhills, FL, 33542.

Zephyrhills police mourn canine officer killed on duty 08/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 7, 2009 8:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. US President Donald Trump, left,  meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Monday, in Jerusalem. Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, a two-day stop aimed at testing the waters for jumpstarting the dormant Middle East peace process. [AP photo]
  2. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times
  3. Flynn to invoke 5th Amendment, won't hand over documents in Russia probe, source says

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination as he notifies a Senate panel that he won't hand over documents in the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

    In this Feb. 13, 2017 file photo, Mike Flynn arrives for a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The former national security adviser will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday. [Associated Press]
  4. Department store chain from Puerto Rico coming to University Mall

    Retail

    TAMPA — Grand's, a department store chain from Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in September.

    Grand's, a department store chain from n Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in Tampa in September. Coloring rendering of revamped University Mall.
[CBRE Group]
  5. Rubio on Trump: 'People got what they voted for'

    Blogs

    Marco Rubio says people shouldn't be surprised about the drama flowing from the White House.