Crime

Grover Beach police officer and killer dog were a certified K-9 team in previous city

Alex Geiger performs K9 training exercises in a bite-proof suit with a dog in Hanford in 2013.
Alex Geiger performs K9 training exercises in a bite-proof suit with a dog in Hanford in 2013.

A 25-year-old Grover Beach police officer paid nearly $5,300 to buy his working K-9 partner from his previous department a few months before the dog attacked two people, killing one and seriously injuring the other, the officer’s former police department said Wednesday.

Responding to a Tribune exclusive article about Grover Beach Officer Alex Geiger’s previous employment and his dog’s previous role as a trained police K-9 for the Exeter Police Department, the city of Exeter issued a news release late Wednesday, expanding on the dog’s training background.

Exeter police Chief Cliff Bush said Wednesday that the Belgian Malinois was a “working police dog” that had completed all necessary training in narcotics and patrol operations in 2015. As the dog’s handler, Geiger and the Malinois named Neo also completed monthly maintenance training with the Exeter department until Geiger left in August to work in Grover Beach.

On Dec. 13, Geiger’s two dogs — the 2-year-old Belgian Malinois and a German shepherd — somehow got loose from Geiger’s yard in Grover Beach, attacked 85-year-old neighbor Betty Long, and mauled to death 64-year-old David Fear as he came to the woman’s defense.

Long remains in a rehabilitation facility recovering from a broken pelvis and shoulder.

San Luis Obispo County Animal Services concluded its investigation into the incident last week and forwarded its findings to the District Attorney’s Office for review of possible criminal charges.

Neo is considered the primary aggressor in the incident, Animal Services Director Eric Anderson said. The dog was euthanized with Geiger’s consent the afternoon of the attack, but the German shepherd — which passed a standard 10-day quarantine — remains confined until the District Attorney’s review is complete, Anderson said Wednesday.

According to the various agencies, Geiger was hired in September as a Grover Beach police officer after working for the Kings County Sheriff’s Office between July 2012 and July 2013 and the Exeter Police Department from August 2014 to August 2016. Exeter is a community of about 10,000 people in Tulare County.

On Tuesday, the Exeter police chief confirmed that Neo was a trained police K-9 and Geiger was his handler. On Wednesday, Bush disclosed more information about the dog and officer. According to the department news release, Geiger, who started at the department as a provisional officer, became a K-9 handler in September 2015 — the same month the city obtained Neo, who was about 1 1/2 years old at the time.

The officer and dog began a “bonding period” before training commenced in October 2015 with a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified dog trainer, the release states. The dog became “dual-certified” — completing narcotics detection certification in November 2015 and certification “in all areas of patrol operations” a month later. Neo was to be recertified in both areas each year.

The news release also says that Geiger and the dog completed 16 hours of maintenance training each month, half of that with a POST-certified trainer. The release does not identify the dog trainer.

When Geiger accepted a job with the Grover Beach Police Department, he expressed that he wanted to keep Neo because of their bond together, the news release states, and Geiger was allowed to buy the dog from the city of Exeter for $5,287.50.

“It is not unusual practice for departments to allow a K-9 handler to purchase their K-9 partner,” the release states.

Grover Beach police Chief John Peters said Wednesday that in the last year the department had considered adding a K-9 officer (as well as a traffic motorcycle officer and gang-enforcement officer).

“As of today, none of these programs have been funded or added to the department,” Peters said in an email.

Peters said Geiger was hired as a qualified police officer.

“We had no interest in the dog,” he added.

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