A brave Vacaville man who recorded and released video of a police officer punching his service K9 in the face caught the attention of a generous Lady Freethinker donor, who awarded him with $1,000 for his courage.
Roberto Palomino’s video, shared through a petition published on Lady Freethinker (LFT), sparked action from LFT Reader Mark Matyazic, who reached out and said he wanted to grant Palomino a reward.
Palomino told Lady Freethinker he was passing by the area when he heard a dog crying in pain and then spotted the officer hitting his K9 partner.
“It was very clear that this was not training. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said. “The only thing I could think to do was to start recording.”
Before Palomino released the video, he consulted with his wife. He was worried that the video might bring unwanted attention to his family.
“After she watched it, she said, ‘You have to do something,’’” he said. “It took a lot of courage for me to post the video, but it was the right thing to do.”
A very surprised Palomino told Lady Freethinker that money will go a long way toward helping his family, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking financial havoc on so many.
“I really appreciate it,” he said. “It will really help me a lot, more than he thinks. I want to thank him, and I also want to thank everyone who is concerned about the dog and to this amazing organization (LFT) for making this all happen.”
Matyazic told Lady Freethinker he felt compelled to recognize Palomino’s actions after he learned of the incident.
“Most people wouldn’t take the time to stop, not to mention shoot video of such barbaric activity,” Matyazic said. “The financial token of appreciation also serves to perhaps give others pause, and to not think twice in reporting such sickening behavior to an organization like Lady Freethinker or similar.”
The video, which went viral, also has inspired others to act — prompting protestors to gather outside of the Vacaville Police Department and demand the officer’s termination and outraged viewers to send hundreds of emails to the city of Vacaville, calling for policy change and accountability.
After the release of the footage, the Vacaville Police Department Tweeted that the officer had punched the dog after the dog refused to give back a toy he had received as a reward for completing a routine training exercise. The dog has since been removed from his handler’s care, but the officer is still on duty.
Kris Concepcion, the city’s fire chief and temporary spokesperson, told Lady Freethinker that the city is not releasing the officer’s name out of fear for his safety.
“We have received hundreds, if not thousands of emails about this incident, some of which contain content that could be considered threats,” he said. “But we know that the eyes of the world are on this situation, and we are monitoring it closely.”
The city of Vacaville is conducting an investigation into the incident, Concepcion said. The city also is looking to hire two independent third parties to review the city’s findings: one with extensive canine training and one with experience evaluating police officer actions, he said.
Concepcion said the city has no defined end-date for the investigation but added the city will be posting updates about the incident on social media and through press releases.
“We want to complete the investigation as expeditiously as possible, but we also want to make sure it is thorough and comprehensive,” he said. “We want to make sure the investigation is done right.”
There were no updates on the investigation as of mid-January, with department leaders asking the public to be patient so that they could do a thorough job.
Lady Freethinker applauds Palomino and Matyazic for their compassionate actions to help end animal abuse and be a voice for those who would otherwise suffer in silence. Lady Freethinker also commends Palomino’s refusal to stay silent in the face of animal abuse.
“With that act, he saved the dog from future abuse, and will likely change the department’s training policies for the long haul,” said LFT Founder Nina Jackel.
If you haven’t already, please sign the petition urging the Vacaville Police Department to thoroughly and expeditiously investigate this disturbing incident and revisit their department-wide training protocols to protect K9s from abuse.