The attacking Dog, a Belgian Malinois, Was a Dual-Certified Police K-9
On December 13, a police-trained K-9 escaped its property and attacked two people killing one.
Manslaughter Charge Added
UPDATE 06/12/07: At a court hearing today, prosecutors added a third felony charge against former Grover Beach police officer Alex Geiger -- involuntary manslaughter. In February, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney filed two felony charges against Geiger after his "personal" dual-certified police-trained K-9 brutally attacked two neighbors, killing one of them. Geiger was initially charged with two felony counts for failing to maintain control of a dangerous animal.
If convicted of the new charge, Geiger still only faces a maximum sentence of four years, District Attorney Dan Dow explained. However, adding the involuntary manslaughter charge allows prosecutors more choices as the case moves into the preliminary phase, which is now scheduled for July 18. The standards for proving both types of charges vary, but the evidence in the case, according to Dow, proves both. Gieger did not enter a plea today for the manslaughter charge.
For the previous charges -- failing to maintain control over a dangerous animal -- Wagner must prove simple negligence and that Geiger had knowledge of his dog’s propensity for violence, Dow said. For involuntary manslaughter, Wagner has to prove gross negligence, a higher standard, but doesn’t have to prove that Geiger was aware the dog was dangerous. - The Tribune, June 12, 2017
On December 13, Geiger's attack-trained Belgian malinois and a German shepherd escaped his property and attacked 86-year old Betty Long, who lived nearby. Long's neighbor, 64-year old David Fear, intervened to save her life. He suffered critical dog bite injuries, including two arteries in his arms being severed. Fear died three days later. Long remained at a rehabilitation facility until March. Long was in the courtroom today, along with many of Fear's family and close friends.
Since the vicious mauling death of David Fear there have been multiple memorial events honoring his life, including the City of Grover Beach unanimously approving the installation of a memorial bench in his name just a few feet from where he was killed by the dogs. Last weekend, family and friends held a paddle out and potluck memorial -- Fear was an avid surfer for over 30 years. A group of surfers paddled out to open water and joined hands while sharing stories about Fear.
02/02/17: Charged with Two Felonies
Today, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed two felony counts against a former Grover Beach police officer after his "personal" dual-certified police-trained K-9 brutally attacked two neighbors, killing one of them, in December. Former officer Alex Paul Geiger, who was hired by the city of Grover Beach in September, resigned Wednesday and now faces nearly 4-years in jail if he is convicted on both counts. A warrant has been issued for Geiger's arrest.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA, February 2, 2017 – Today, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed two felony charges against Alex Paul Geiger (dob 7/31/1991) for failing to maintain control of a dangerous animal on December 13, 2016 that led to the death of David W. Fear (64) and serious bodily injury to Betty J. Long (86).
The two-count felony criminal complaint alleges that Mr. Geiger had custody and control of a dangerous animal; that he knew that the animal was dangerous; that he failed to use ordinary care in keeping the animal; and that the animal killed David W. Fear and caused serious bodily injury to Betty J. Long. The code sections alleged are California Penal Code sections 399(a) and 399(b) respectively. (Read full press release) - District Attorney Dan Dow
Prior to joining the city of Grover Beach, Geiger had worked at the Exeter Police Department in Tulare County for two years with the last full year spent as a K-9 patrol officer with a Belgian malinois named "Neo." The dog was dual-certified in narcotics detection and patrol operations. Geiger left Exeter prior to the dog's annual re-certification and joined Grover Beach, which has no K-9 unit. On December 13, Neo escaped Geiger's property and brutally attacked Fear and Long.
Six months before Geiger moved to Grover Beach -- taking the dog with him as a "personal pet" -- Neo had bitten a trainer during a "bite suite exercise," reports The Tribune. However, the police K-9 was not taken out of service at the Exeter Police Department after the incident. When Geiger purchased the dog from Exeter for $5,287 in late August, he signed a waiver relieving Exeter of any future liability. Such a waiver is standard procedure, but offers no protections to the public.
Geiger wrote that he agreed to "hold harmless, defend and indemnify" the city of Exeter and the police union from all liability "arising out of my ownership and control of Neo." - The Tribune, January 23, 2017
Additional public records obtained by The Tribune revealed the dog underwent K-9 training at Top Dog Training Center, LLC in Visalia, described as a "home-based K-9 training program," and gained certificates in the center’s narcotics detection and basic patrol courses in November and December 2015. The Tribune reports the K-9 center did not have a website. California Secretary of State records showed the company was founded in 2004 and has since been canceled.1
Finally, an investigation by The Tribune showed that one month after Geiger began working for Grover Beach in October -- and a month before his dog attacked Fear and Long -- he lobbied for a police K-9 program in Grover Beach. On November 10, Geiger and a senior officer presented Police Chief John Peters with a 140-page guide explaining how to form a K-9 unit in a small police department. Peters still maintains that his department had "no interest" in Neo as a K-9 officer.
Where Does Liability Fall?
First and foremost the liability of the mauling death of David Fear and injuries suffered by Betty Long falls squarely onto the shoulders of Alex Geiger -- in this case having both civil and criminal consequences. We applaud the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office for filing two felony counts against former officer Geiger. We hope that a jury of peers convicts. Beyond Geiger, the legal liability question remains murky and will take an excellent legal team to make distinct.
The question the public should consider is: 1.) Why is it okay for cities to absolve themselves of liability through a paper "waiver" after handing off attack-trained police K-9s to officers (or other individuals) after the dogs fail training, retire or in this case when the K-9 officer resigns? As we have emphasized before, these are extremely serious animals, not only trained in damaging bite work (See recent "Bite and Hold" Ninth Circuit ruling), but can also scale fences and walls.
01/16/17: Officer Lobbied for K-9 Program
In a disturbing update by The Tribune -- one that was hinted at in an earlier report by the news group -- Officer Alex Geiger quickly lobbied for a police K-9 program at Grover Beach after being hired. "One month before his police-trained pet dog attacked two Grover Beach residents, killing one of them, newly hired city police officer Alex Geiger presented the police chief with a 140-page guide explaining how to form a K-9 unit in a small police department," reports The Tribune.
Police Chief John Peters had previously told The Tribune that his department had "internally explored" adding a K-9 officer, but that it had "no interest" in Geiger's personal dog. After a public records request, The Tribune was able to view the "binder" that Geiger and Senior Police Officer Matte Goodman submitted to Peters on November 10 -- a month after he was sworn in and a month before his dual-certified police K-9 killed David Fear and seriously injured Betty Long.
"It is our hope that you consider moving forward in putting a K-9 team together for Grover Beach Police Department," states the proposal.
Part of the materials submitted to Peters by Geiger and Goodman included the estimated initial costs of a K-9 program, state certification guidelines, various grant opportunities, a list of specialized K-9 vehicles, a copy of the Arroyo Grande Police Department's K-9 policy and articles about "establishing a new K-9 unit for a small department," reports The Tribune. All backed by officer Geiger, the city's recent hire, who had a "freshly out of work" dual-certified police K-9.
While the city of Grover Beach tries to distance itself from any liability issues from the December 13 attack, we continue to wonder about Geiger's short stay at Exeter. He was a newbie K-9 officer on that police force, active for only a year before taking a job at Grover Beach, a city with no police K-9 unit. If Geiger's dual-certified K-9 had behavioral or training issues, they started while he was employed by Exeter. Geiger also left Exeter before his K-9's annual re-certification was due.
The dual re-certification (in detection and patrol operations) for his police K-9 named Neo was due in November and December respectively.
Geiger left the Exeter police K-9 unit in late August, several months earlier, and paid the city of Exeter a mere $5,287 to keep his dual-certified police K-9. Geiger was hired by the city of Grover Beach in September. CalCoastNews notes that law enforcement agencies typically require officers to work for 7-years or longer before joining a K-9 unit and that sources from within the Exeter Police Department also told CalCoastNews that "Neo had some training and behavioral issues."2
01/05/17: Dual-Certified Police K-9
In response to The Tribune's exclusive article about officer Alex Geiger's previous employment and his dog's previous role as a trained police K-9 with the Exeter Police Department, the city of Exeter issued a news release Wednesday night explaining more about the dog's background. The dog was a "dual-certified" police K-9 -- trained in narcotics detection and patrol operations. Geiger purchased this "fully trained" and "dual-certified" police K-9 for a mere $5,287 before departing.
This police K-9 was trained in narcotics detection and patrol work -- obedience, search, apprehension and handler protection (bite work).
Geiger left the Exeter Police Department's K-9 unit in August 2016. Exeter police Chief Cliff Bush said Wednesday that his "working police dog," named Neo, had completed all training in narcotics detection and patrol work in 2015. Geiger, as the dog's handler, had also completed "monthly maintenance training" at the Exeter Police Department until he departed to work for Grover Beach, a city that has no police K-9 unit. The city of Grover Beach hired Geiger in September 2016.
On December 13, Geiger's Belgian malinios, Neo, a dual-certified police K-9 in detection and patrol work (bite work), escaped Geiger's property and attacked Betty Long, 85. Her neighbor David Fear, 64, intervened to save her life. Fear suffered life-threatening injuries, including two arteries in his arms being severed; he died three days later while hospitalized. Long suffered serious bite injuries and broken bones from falling. She remains in a rehabilitation facility.
The kennel where the police K-9 was bred and later acquired by the city of Exeter, and the dog's POST-certified trainer, have yet to be identified.
Time Line of Events
- 2009 - Alex Geiger serves as an Explorer with the Visalia Police Department.
- 2012 to 2013 - July to July. Geiger serves as a provisional deputy with the Kings County Sheriff’s Office (where he is seen in photo doing a K-9 bite work demo)
- 2014 - August. Geiger joins the Exeter Police Department as a provisional officer.
- 2015 - July. Geiger becomes a full-time police officer with the Exeter Police Department in Tulare County, California.
- 2015 - September. Geiger becomes a K-9 handler with the Exeter Police Department. This same month, the city acquires police K-9 "Neo" (1.5 years old)
- 2015 - November/December. Neo becomes "dual certified" in narcotics detection and patrol work (bite work).
- 2016 - January to August. - Geiger completes 16 hours of maintenance training each month, half of this time with a POST-certified trainer.
- 2016 - August. Geiger pays city of Exeter $5,287 to keep his "fully" trained, "dual-certified" police K-9 in narcotics detection and patrol work.
- 2016 - August. Geiger departs the Exeter Police Department as a member of its K-9 unit. No explanation as to why.
- 2016 - September. Gieger is hired by the city of Grover Beach as a police officer. Grover Beach does not have a K-9 unit.
- 2016 - September. Geiger moves into a "rented" home on Owens Court, one block from the scene of the deadly attack.
- 2016 - October 3. Geiger is officially sworn in at a Grover Beach City Council meeting.
- 2016 - December 13. Geiger's dogs (Neo, the primary attacker, and a German shepherd) escape his property and viciously attack David Fear and Betty Long.
- 2016 - December 15. Animal Services Director Eric Anderson issues news release stating that the Belgian Malinois -- and a German shepherd owned by Geiger -- were not connected to the Grover Beach Police Department.
- 2016 - December 16. David Fear dies of his injuries. Long remains in rehabilitation care.
- 2016 - December 19. City of Grover Beach places Geiger on paid administrative leave.
- 2016 - December 22. City of Grover finally releases the name of dogs' owner, police officer Alex Geiger, to the public. City does not provide any information on the dog's training.
- 2017 - January 4. The Tribune publishes an exclusive article, detailing Geiger's previous employment and that his dog was a trained police K-9.
- 2017 - January 4. City of Exeter responds with a news release that expands upon the dog's training -- Neo is "dual-certified" in narcotics detection and patrol work (apprehension, protection and bite work).
- 2017 - January 5. Grover Beach taxpayers continue to pay Geiger's salary, as he remains on paid administrative leave.
01/04/17: Trained Police K-9
It has been confirmed the Belgian malinios belonging to Grover Beach police officer Alex Geiger, which killed David Fear and seriously injured Betty Long in December, was trained as a police K-9. The Tribune's exclusive report also details Geiger's background. Since 2009, Geiger had worked for three different police forces prior to being hired by the city of Grover Beach in September 2016, including the Exeter Police Department, where Geiger was a member of its police K-9 unit.
In July 2015, Geiger became a full-time police officer with the Exeter Police Department and was a member of its K-9 unit when he departed in August 2016. On Tuesday, Exeter Police Chief Cliff Bush confirmed that Geiger was a handler for a police K-9 named "Neo" while working in Exeter. The dog came into the department with "basic training" and entered a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified K-9 program with Geiger as his handler, according to Chief Bush.
Geiger purchased the dog from the city of Exeter before he moved to Grover Breach. Bush declined to say if "Neo" passed the POST training.
POST Law Enforcement K-9 Guidelines
While we do not know exactly what "basic training" entails -- Bush did not provide these details -- a California document, POST Law Enforcement K-9 Guidelines, describes performing activities of IPO protection training for certification in patrol work, including: obedience, search, apprehension and handler protection -- bite work (See: pages 17 and 18). The guidelines are divided into two parts, patrol and detection -- the latter does not assume the police K-9 is also trained in bite work.
What is known is that Geiger purchased the Belgian malinois, which is a strong indicator -- especially in conjunction with the vague training information provided by Bush -- the malinois failed the POST certification program. Many of these dogs become "personal" dogs for their handlers after failing or retiring. The Tribune has filed a public records request with the city of Exeter to learn if the dog completed the POST training, served as a K-9 officer or failed the program.
Dizzying Array of Police K-9 Lawsuits
Back in 2013, we began tracking civil lawsuits involving police K-9s attacking bystanders and children and when being deployed on minor offenders. We started with multiple lawsuits in the Seattle area, as well as Vancouver, B.C., which came under fire for their deployment tactics. There have been many other lawsuits since. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "Bite and Hold" could be viewed as excessive force as well, a violation of the 4th Amendment.
We express again just how serious apprehension and bite trained police K-9's are, whether on active duty or retired! These are advanced training levels, but certainly fit the age of Geiger's malinois of 2.5 years old. "Basic training," which we know the dog underwent, includes agility training, according to Policemag.com, where the dogs learn how to scale fences and walls. Geiger's malinois belonged in a locked six-sided enclosure inside his locked fenced-in backyard.
12/22/16: Police Officer Named
After over a week of withholding the identity of a Grover Beach police officer whose dogs escaped his property and attacked two people, killing one and seriously injuring the other, city officials released his name. Alex Geiger, 25, was identified by the Grover Beach Police Department Thursday as the owner of the dogs. Geiger is a four year law enforcement veteran and was hired by the city of Grover Beach in September. Officer Geiger remains on paid administrative leave.
Geiger previously worked as a deputy in the Kings County Sheriff’s Office, which has a police canine unit. Geiger released a prepared statement Thursday, along with the Grover Beach Police Officers Association, both calling it a "tragic incident." The association went further calling it a "tragic and unusual incident." City officials released no information about the history or training of the Belgian malinios belonging to Geiger that nearly killed two innocent people December 13.
In 2013, former Kings County Deputy Alex Geiger performed a demo with police K9 officer "Bos" at an Easter Egg hunt in Hanford.3 Geiger is not this dog's handler, but he is clearly connected with police K-9s and their training. Geiger is well aware that these are extremely serious animals. It seems safe to assume at this point that Geiger's malinois is from protection-bred stock and is likely protection trained as well. One of these dogs loose in a neighborhood is a recipe for disaster.
12/20/16: Officer Placed on Paid Leave
Late Monday it was reported that the owner of a dog that viciously attacked two people, killing one and seriously injuring the other, has been placed on paid administrative leave. The owner is an unidentified Grover Beach police officer. Last week his two dogs, a Belgian malinios and German shepherd, escaped his property and attacked 85-year old Betty Long and 64-year old David Fear. Fear had stepped into save the elderly woman. He died of his severe injuries three days later.
The primary aggressor was the Belgian malinios, a breed frequently used in police K-9 work. The unnamed officer surrendered that dog to animal control; it has since been euthanized. The owner agreed to quarantine the German shepherd until the investigation is over. It unclear what level of involvement the shepherd had in the violent attack. It's also unclear why the city of Grover Beach waited nearly a week after the attack before placing the officer on paid administrative leave.
San Luis Obispo County Animal Services is leading the investigation. The Grover Beach Police Department is not commenting on the investigation and does not have a police canine unit. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department is involved in the investigation and does have a canine unit.4 It is unknown if the attacking malinios owned by the unidentified officer is a retired police K-9, if it was trained in protection work or if it has a history of attacking people or pets.
Some readers might believe that by not naming this dog owner, authorities are giving this police officer special treatment. However, dog owners are often not named in fatal dog attacks by authorities or the media, unless criminal charges apply. Other times, owners will openly talk to the media -- they always have that choice. Generally, withholding the owner's name makes it extremely difficult for the community to know if the dog had a history of aggression or attacks.
Journalists, our nonprofit and others often cannot proceed with research and fact-finding without this information. This horrific dog attack is a special case scenario too. Does the public have the right to know this officer's name after his "personal" dog killed a man and seriously injured a woman? We believe it best serves the public interest that he is identified, along with the history of his Belgian malinios. Otherwise, this obvious missing information only serves to further rumors.
Victim's Family Reaches Out
Yesterday a relative of Fear left a heartbreaking comment on a post at this website. In the comment, his sister-in-law states that Betty Long, whose life was saved by Fear's actions, could hear him crying out, "Help! Help! They're eating me!" over and over again. Her comment was left on the four year anniversary post of this nonprofit's founder. Our hearts go out to his partner Terry and all of his family members. This was a vicious, horrific attack that could have killed two people.
I am David Fear's sister-in-law, and you wrote the clearest article recalling all that has transpired since his mauling and death. My husband has horrifically lost his best friend and brother. We all are devastated when we consider the horror he went through. His neighbor whom he saved could hear him crying out, "Help! Help! They're eating me!" over and over again. I read the same words in your recount.
12/17/16: Man Dies After Dog Attack
Grover Beach, CA - Late Friday, 64-year old David Fear died after being viciously attacked by one or more dogs earlier this week. A spokesman at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center confirmed his death today. The dogs first attacked his neighbor, 85-year old Betty Long. Fear intervened to help save her life. Fear suffered critical dog bite injuries, including two arteries in his arms being severed. Long suffered serious bite injuries and broken bones from falling. Both were hospitalized.
The two dogs -- a Belgain malinois and German shepherd -- belong to a Grover Beach police officer. The malinois is the primary attacker.
The attack occurred Tuesday outside of Long's home on Nacimiento Avenue. The two victims are next-door neighbors. The San Luis Obispo County Department of Animal Services identified the 2.5 year old Belgain malinois -- typically used in police K-9 work -- as the main aggressor. The dog was surrendered by its owner and euthanized Tuesday. The other dog remains with its owner. The unnamed Grover Beach police officer who owns both dogs was away at the time of the attack.
Grover Beach does not have a police canine program and neither of the dogs were city-owned, according to Eric Anderson, the manager of San Luis Obispo County Animal Services. What is unknown, however, is if the malinois is a retired police K-9 from a different city or county or if it was trained in protection work. The Grover Beach police department has referred all questions to Animal Services. Neighbors said the dogs' owner had only lived in the neighborhood a short while.
A close friend of Fear initially created a GoFundMe page to help pay the cost of his medical bills. The goal of the fund has since changed to help Fear's wife pursue a legal case against the dog's owner. Long, who suffered multiple broken bones and staples in her head from falling, is expected to be discharged from the hospital today. Ron Yukelson, a spokesperson for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, said that Fear’s family plans to issue a statement about his death later in the day.
Family Releases Statement
Saturday evening, David Fear's family did release a statement. His brother, Steve Fear, earlier described his injuries to KSBY.com as so severe that two arteries in his arms were severed, contributing to him losing six pints of blood. The city of Grover Beach also released a statement, "a tragic and unfortunate dog attack has brought sadness to our hearts," it states in part. The city's words fall flat, especially if the dog was a retired police K-9 or was trained in protection work.
Despite the tireless efforts of the Sierra Vista medical team, David Fear lost his battle for life late Friday evening. Our entire family offers the most sincere gratitude for the selfless dedication of David's world-class doctors, nurses, support technicians, and blood donors who gave us the opportunity to spend his last moments with us in his time of need. We truly appreciate the support and heartfelt sentiments of our community. The family will announce memorial plans in due time and asks that privacy be respected for the time being. - Family of David Fear
2Well that would be a mild understatement now wouldn't it? We can only imagine there were "handler" training and behavioral issues as well.
4"Bos" is depicted as the center dog on the Kings County Sheriff's Office K9 Unit page.
5Notably, last year a "highly trained K-9 officer" named "DJ" of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office mistakenly attacked a California Highway Patrol officer while in pursuit of a suspect. Afterward, DJ was taken off duty for two weeks and placed under an in-house quarantine to see if the K-9 had "any ill effects from the incident."
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