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

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Ivins eventually mumbled that he shot Drake "two or three times" in the master bedroom but denied shooting the first bullets through the sliding glass door -- and he wouldn't say who did.

Yet there would be no leniency for Ivins. Local news would plaster his name and face next to images of a bandaged-up dog. Infuriated dog lovers would seek revenge for the death of Drake. Their calls would be heard by prosecutors, who would utilize a one-two punch of Florida laws to charge Ivins as an adult, resulting in an extraordinarily long sentence for a teenager.

It's two years longer than the average time served in Florida for murder.

Florida's "direct file" law gives prosecutors -- not judges -- the power to decide whether teenagers are charged as juveniles rather than adults. The measure has long been decried by defense attorneys and juvenile advocates and was spotlighted by human rights activists in a report last year. Direct file, critics say, denies the youngest citizens access to a system that was designed precisely to address their age and immaturity.

Prosecutors called Ivins a "career criminal" and chose to charge him as an adult -- a decision the state attorney defends to this day. Then, because of Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing laws, he faced a minimum of 20 years because his crime involved a gun. So instead of being sentenced to a three-year juvenile program based on rehabilitation or receiving a "youthful offender" sentence of six years -- likely outcomes had he been granted leniency due to his age -- Ivins got slammed with a 23-year sentence in state prison for killing a dog. That's seven years longer than he had been alive. It's two years longer than the average time served in Florida for murder.

Hours after Ivins and his two friends fled, Florida Highway Patrolman Robert Boody returned home from his shift to find his back door shattered with bullet holes and his home ransacked. He was alarmed that his dog did not greet him.

Boody, 36 years old, scoured the home for Drake. He found his dog lying next to the bed, barely alive. The loyal canine tried to stand to greet his master but couldn't muster the strength. Boody gathered Drake into his arms and rushed him to his veterinarian, Ken Simmons, in Greenacres. Drake had four bullet wounds, including two near his snout, and had lost a great deal of blood, but there was a chance he could pull through.

Soon, the media would be reporting the harrowing story of a brave police dog who tried to defend his home and got shot in cold blood by a ruthless criminal.

If there were ever a made-for-local-TV story with a perfect cast, this was it.

"The press started to show up on my doorstep because they heard a police dog had been shot and was being treated," Simmons remembers. "Before long, it was like twice-a-day medical updates as if the president had been shot."

Words like "heroic," "brave," and "courageous" were peppered throughout the news scripts, read aloud over images of a bandaged-up Drake being cuddled by his master -- a young, clean-cut, cherub-faced patrolman who clearly loved his dog. Boody even gave great interviews, speaking seemingly from the heart. If there were ever a made-for-local-TV story with a perfect cast, this was it.

What TV news started, the internet took to new levels. Facebook pages devoted to dogs picked up the story and helped it go viral. With the outpouring of compassion came an outpouring of cash.

"We didn't ask for it," Simmons says. "We didn't set up a fund or anything -- people just started sending money."

Saving Drake was an international effort. People from Israel, Sweden, and the U.K. contributed to Drake's medical bills, which ended up costing nearly $27,000 -- easily paid with the approximately $30,000 the world sent in.

Unfortunately, not even a vet bill the price of a brand-new Acura was enough to save Drake from the bullets he took. After five days of intense medical procedures, including an emergency plane ride to a University of Florida veterinary center in Gainesville for one last shot at treatment, Boody decided to relieve Drake of the pain. The former police dog was put to sleep a day after Thanksgiving.

"We felt so bad for this dog because after the surgery, he was nice -- he was a sweetheart," Simmons says. "It was such a transformation from the crazy dog that we knew before -- the Drake that would eat you alive if you came near him."

On a Facebook page titled "Prayers for Drake -- The Amazing K9 German Shepherd Shot Four Times," hundreds of commenters expressed their condolences, and many were confident that Drake would be greeted in heaven by God and taken to paradise.

"In the arms of His Creator, He will be loved forever, and his legacy will be honorable, God bless and comfort all those who love him," wrote Dee Wingfield from Florida. One supporter submitted an illustration of a long-haired angel guiding Drake down a suburban street, both glowing in holy evanescence.

As the world was striving to save Drake, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office released Ivins' name and face to the public. Normally, juveniles are spared the public-shaming process of being accused of a crime. But not this time. A mug shot and a few seconds of video footage of Ivins in handcuffs and a blue jumpsuit appearing before a judge aired on some stations. Often, the mug shot was juxtaposed next to a photo of a hospitalized Drake looking sadly into the camera.

Anonymous internet outrage spread like a digital wildfire.

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Ray Downs
Contact: Ray Downs