|Luci gets a home|
|Written by APB Staff|
In North Carolina, a Brunswick County magistrate has ruled that a former Navassa police officer can keep the K-9 dog that he took with him when he resigned from Navassa's police department in July. The cop’s name is Kevin Smith, the dog's name is Luci, and she’s been living with Smith's family since he left the agency.
Smith was the town's only trained K-9 officer when he resigned to take a job at another police agency.
The town filed a civil suit to try and get the dog back. The town claimed that the dog was donated to the town as opposed to Smith.
But Smith testified that the dog was given to the town with the stipulation that he would be the dog's only handler and would own the dog.
Smith said he asked to be paid overtime and accrued vacation time that he was entitled to when he resigned. The town agreed but with a catch. If Smith returned the dog he could get paid, according to Mayor Eulis Willis.
When he learned about the suit, Smith asked the N.C. Police Benevolent Association to represent him. John Midgette, executive director of the association was at the hearing.
He said two former Navassa Town Council members and one current council member testified on Smith's behalf, agreeing that the dog's former trainer had stipulated that Smith would be the dog's owner. The town's administrator and a former police chief also supported Smith's position at the hearing.
Mayor Willis says that’s not the case.
"The town was given the dog, but the judge didn't see it that way," the mayor told reporters from the Star News.
It’s easy to understand why the mayor sounds like he’s eating sour grapes.
Midgette said Smith told the police association that the real reason he left the agency was the fact that he was being harassed by Willis after Smith arrested the mayor for driving while impaired in July 2011. Willis subsequently pleaded guilty to the DWI charge.
Willis “emphatically stated,” that he had never discussed the DWI arrest with Smith and had never made any threats.
Navassa currently has no active police officers and is relying on the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office to police the town.
Midgette said that had the town prevailed in its suit it would have been a death sentence for Luci.
"K-9 dogs are specially trained and make incredible bonds with their handlers. They require special handling. Even when the dogs are retired, they almost always stay with their handlers. The town of Navassa wouldn't have known what to do with Luci."