Should a Juvenile Serve 23 Years for Shooting a Retired Police Dog?

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"Palm Beach Sheriff's Office! We have a warrant! Open up!" they barked.

She obeyed and came face to face with the barrels of several guns: A 26-member SWAT team had surrounded her home, front and back. An armor-clad deputy grabbed the 51-year-old and pulled her out into the front yard. More deputies swooped into the modest, three-bedroom West Palm Beach home in search of Ivins. They found him lying in bed, wearing nothing but underwear. With several guns drawn on him, Ivins didn't dare move. A deputy slapped handcuffs on him and whisked him out of the house.

Sanon looked on helplessly as her 16-year-old son's skinny, five-foot-five frame trembled. "It was chilly, but he was shaking because he was scared, not because he was cold," she recalls. "I could hear the metal shaking."

It wasn't difficult to pin Ivins to the break-in. The teenager was on probation for a burglary and was wearing an ankle monitor, and GPS records showed he was at the Florida trooper's home on the night of the crime. Ivins actually thought the ankle monitor was broken because it didn't beep when he left his home. And it was broken in that respect, but the monitor was still able to keep track of Ivins' movements.

So when Detective Phillip DiMola sat Ivins down in a squad car and turned on his voice recorder, he laid out the situation, with a few exaggerations.

"You see these K9 dogs that are walking around the house?" DiMola said. "They are law enforcement, which means if the dog tried to bite you and you punch it, that's battery of a law enforcement officer. If you shoot that dog and he dies, that's murder of a law enforcement officer."

Although killing a police dog would be a third-degree felony, it would not count as murder, and besides, 5-year-old Drake was no longer on the force, having recently retired from the PBSO K9 unit due to a burned-out nose from too much drug-sniffing. But DiMola gave an ultimatum anyway: Confess to the shooting and face an animal cruelty charge or don't confess and face charges of shooting a cop, he told the teen.

"Will I go into a program or something?" Ivins asked.

"Probably. You're a juvenile," DiMola answered.

"Will it affect my school work? Can I still go to a university?" Ivins countered.

DiMola said confessing wouldn't impact Ivins future plans.

"Ivins, help me to help you, because as soon as we part, I won't be able to help you," DiMola said. "I see a little guy in front of me. I see a 16-year-old boy who just told me he wants to go to college, that he wants to make something of himself, and I never hear 'college' out of kids. You're in 11th grade. You know, it sounds like you want to have a future."

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Ray Downs
Contact: Ray Downs