JONESBORO, Ga. - The Fayette County Sheriff's office is now installing new remote unlocking systems in the agency's K-9 units to prevent patrol dogs from escaping when a deputy handler is not present.
The upgrades are the result of a patrol dog attack on a civilian last month.
"What we don't want to happen is the door to open unexpectedly on a patrol vehicle and a full service dog released unless the handler is in close proximity," said Fayette County Sheriff's Office Maj. Bryan Woodie.
Last month, a patrol dog jumped out of a K-9 unit while the deputy was inside a Fayetteville Walmart using a restroom.
The dog attacked Walmart employee Mang Dieke who was sitting outside during a coffee break.
The day of the attack, Dieke spoke with Channel 2's Tom Regan and showed the bite wounds to his arm, stomach and chest.
"He got right in my face. He got me on the arm, and I had to drag him inside the store to get help," Dieke said.
An internal investigation could not determine what caused the dog's "bail out door" to pop open.
The deputy carries a remote opener but sheriff's officials do not believe the deputy
accidentally triggered the device.
There is speculation that another remote door opener on the same frequency activated the locking system.
The malfunction may have also been caused by water corrosion of integral parts in the locks.
The new system will use a higher frequency for transmission to reduce the possibility of interference from other, consumer variety remotes.
In addition, there will be a device that a handler can easily activate that would prevent the door from opening
accidentally in circumstances where the dog is not needed.
"When handler go to the
restroom, the office to do paperwork or eat dinner or somewhere else where they know they are not going to need their dog, they will be required to touch this one time and disable the (emergency unlocking) system," Woodie said.
Woodie said installation of the system on six patrol units will be completed this week at a cost of $26,000.
The Walmart employee has hired an attorney and said he intends to file a negligence lawsuit against Fayette County government.