Trial dismissed for Sebastian officer charged with hot car death of K-9

Judge said state cannot prove when and where dog died

A verdict could be reached Thursday in the animal cruelty trial of a Sebastian K-9 officer charged with the death of his police dog partner.

VIERA, Fla. – A verdict was reached Thursday in the animal cruelty trial of a Sebastian officer charged with the death of his K-9 partner.

At 11:30 a.m. Thursday the judge favored on the side of the defense. The judge said the state cannot prove when and where the dog died.

Sebastian Police Department issued a statement following Thursdays decision:

"On Thursday, October 17, 2019, Brevard County Judge Kelly Ingram dismissed the Animal Cruelty case in the unfortunate off-duty death of Officer Eric Antosia's police canine partner. Officer Antosia will continue to work as a road patrol officer which he has been doing since June 22, 2018 after the conclusion of the Internal Affairs investigation and grievance process for discipline."

During Antosia's investigation, officials revealed that Antosia was found to have violated one standard of conduct violation and three code of conduct policy violations.  

According to officials, Antosia was issued a 120- hour suspension without pay because of the violations.

"After extensive criminal and administrative investigations, all evidence indicates that this was an unfortunate tragic incident that was unintentional.  We have examined every aspect of our procedures and equipment to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.  While nothing is guaranteed, I am confident that we have addressed this best as is humanly possible," Chief Morris said.

Opening statements Wednesday revealed new details about how prosecutors say a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Diesel suffered before dying from a heat stroke in April 2017.

An assistant state attorney said inside Officer Eric Antosia's police car was an empty water bowl and scratches on the door where Diesel's body was discovered.

Antosia's wife testified that the working dog was loved like a member of the family. 

Police said the dog's death was an accident therefore, Antosia was charged with a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty.

His defense lawyers argued that prosecutors have a lack of evidence.

"The state doesn't know where and when anything happened to Diesel," attorney Greg Eisenmenger told the jury.

The state said one of Antosia's children noticed Diesel wasn't in their backyard where the family kept him in a kennel.

Melbourne police said Antosia forgot about Diesel, leaving him in his backup police car after coming home from working at the Vero Beach courthouse.

Antosia reported the discovery to the Sebastian K-9 officer who trained him. 

"I called Eric's phone, and all I could hear was crying, could tell he was very distraught," Cpl. Richie Revis testified.

Revis said it's a K-9 officer's responsibility to make sure their car's emergency heat alarm system is working.

The state said Antosia didn't turn it on that day.

The defense has argued for two years it was a mechanical error that failed to automatically lower the windows and turn on a fan, which could have saved Diesel's life.

Revis testified there is never a reason to leave a K-9 in a police car when the officer is off duty, which Antosia was when he left the courthouse that day.

Revis was also asked by state prosecutors how Diesel was taken care of by Antosia.

Before entering the Vero Beach courthouse, the state said Antosia checked that his windows were cracked and that Diesel had water.

"He was over-caring of his animals," Revis said.

The trial is expected to be over by the end of Thursday.

Antosia, who continues to work with Sebastian police but no longer as a K-9 officer, could spend a year behind bars and also faces fines if convicted.

Stick with News 6 and for updates to this story.

About the Author:

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.