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A new lawsuit filed by veterinarian Dr. Yolanda Cassidy once again shines a spotlight on the death of LASD K-9 Spike

LASD K-9 unit, via WLA
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

Two and a half years ago, on Oct 29, 2020, a K-9 dog who worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department died after being left on a hot day inside a department-owned 2013 Chevy Tahoe, under circumstances that still remain unclear.

Yet, the death of the six-year-old black Labrador Retriever, whose name was Spike, is a story that refuses to go away.

Spike was trained in the art of “accelerant detection,” which meant that the dog would often be brought in after a suspicious fire.  At the time of his death, he and his handler, Sergeant Daniel Tobin, were assigned to the Arson Explosives Detail (AED), within the department’s Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB), which also includes SWAT, Aero Bureau’s search and rescue,  and other specialized units of the LASD.

WitnessLA wrote of the need for a re-investigation of the dog’s death in our prize winning story of last fall.

Now, the newest chapter in the account of K-9 Spike’s death has arrived in the  form of a lawsuit brought by veterinarian Dr. Yolanda Cassidy.

The 35-page lawsuit filed last Thursday, July 6,  by civil rights attorney Vincent Miller, alleges that when the news of the dog’s death broke belatedly last year, in an attempt to cover up the department’s failure to investigate Spike’s death after it initially took place nearly three years ago, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, along with other department members, present and former, fabricated a back-dated memo, which described an investigation that never existed.

In order to add weight to the newly surfaced description of the purported investigation, (which WLA’s sources inside the LASD continue to maintain never took place) whoever wrote the memo about Spike’s death (which you can find here) presented Dr. Cassidy as the veterinarian who examined the six-year-old dog at the East Los Angeles Dog and Cat Hospital, which is approximately a ten minute drive from the building where K-9 handlers keep their offices. 

This was the veterinary facility where Spike’s handler brought him after finding the black Lab in the overheated SUV where he was “unconscious,” and  “unresponsive,” with “shallow respirations.”  

In the memo in question, which was signed by then Captain Joseph Williams (who has now been promoted to the position of chief under new Sheriff Robert Luna), Cassidy was quoted has having described what she saw of Spike’s condition when he arrived at the clinic.  She was further quoted as opining on elements other than overheating that might possibly have contributed to his death,  about the treatment she said had been given the dog,  and when he’d been pronounced dead.

Yet, according to the lawsuit, all of Yolanda’s quotes were completely manufactured by the authors of the suddenly public memo because, although Dr. Cassidy worked at the clinic, she wasn’t working the day of Spike’s death. 

She had taken a rare day off to go to the doctor, she told WitnessLA when we first reported on the issue in the fall of 2022.  

According to Thursday’s legal filing, Dr. Cassidy, who had been planning to open a veterinary clinic of her own, “has been irreparably harmed” by the “false portrayal of her as an incompetent veterinarian who participated in a criminal cover up.”

A deceptive memo

Cassidy told us about her hope to open her own clinic last year, when we were initially probing the events surrounding the death of K-9 Spike. 

At that time, when we spoke to department sources about Cassidy, we learned that she was a favorite of the LASD’s  K-9 deputies, and other LASD members.

“We even bring our family dog to her,” said one veteran LASD source.

Among Cassidy’s other medical skills, she also has expertise in the arena known as “tactical K9 casualty” care, which is the vet equivalent of battlefield medicine, treating the dogs when they’re out on the job and medical help is needed.

The vet had not, however, ever treated arson dog Spike, nor had she ever met Spike’s handler, Sergeant Daniel Tobin. 

Furthermore, the description of Spike’s condition when he came to the clinic, which was falsely attributed to Dr. Cassidy, is considerably at odds with the clinic’s actual medical written assessment, which WLA has reviewed.

According to the veterinary hospital’s documents, when Spike arrived at the clinic, the staff found his body temperature to be 107 degrees, still very high considering, according to the report given by his handler, he’d been doused with water in order to lower his body temperature, and theoretically rushed directly to the veterinary hospital.  

According to the veternary clinic’s documentation, when Spike arrived he was “cyanotic,” meaning his skin and gums were bluish due to lack of oxygen.  The clinic vet found no heartbeat at all in the black Lab. The vet gave Spike a dose of epinephrine, a drug used for, among other reasons, to restart a stopped heart.  Spike did not respond.

The actual vet on duty also noted in the clinic’s written report, that “rigor mortis” was already present, an observation that appears to be at odds Sgt. Tobin’s statement that Spike was still alive when he came to the parking lot and found his K-9 in an overheated car.

In any case, after 15 minutes of treatment, the clinic’s personnel pronounced Spike dead at 1:35 p.m on Oct 29, 2020, which was approximately 50 minutes after Sgt. Tobin reported having found Spike unconscious in the hot Tahoe.

It was a time frame that department sources found perplexing, given the fact that the veterinary clinic was around 10 minutes away from the SEB building. 

 “And presumably, he would have been driving Code 3, lights and sirens,” said a retired department member.

So what caused the delay?

There were also a number of other odd elements in the Spike narrative according to department sources.

For example, according to experienced department sources,  when a department K-9 dies, and the cause of death is not 100 percent clear, a necropsy is called for.

(A necropsy is an autopsy for animals.)

For example, in the case of a Long Beach PD K-9 named Ozzy, who had also died in an overheated car, such an examination was performed by a vet to determine the dog’s cause of death.

In the case of military K-9s, Dr. Cassidy told us, a necropsy is mandatory, even in the case of retired dogs who die of old age.

Yet, in the case of K-9 Spike, there was no way the vet could do a necropsy because, when Sgt. Tobin left the clinic, he took Spike’s body with him.

“He should never have taken that dog,” a department source told us.  

“Everyone who watches crime shows knows that in the case of a human death when there are questions, the family has a wait for an autopsy, no matter how painful that might be.”

And Spike was a department member.  “So it was important to determine exactly how and why he died.”

WLA found other troubling irregularities in the memo’s account, having to do with why the air-conditioning purportedly failed in Spike’s handler’s Chevy Tahoe, which you can read here.

Collateral damage

When we reported on K-9 Spike last year, we initially learned of the dog’s death—and about the lack of an in-depth investigation into the circumstances of his death—through a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by Lieutenant Joseph Garrido, who had worked for more than a dozen years in the LASD’s K-9 program, where he oversaw several K-9 handlers, including  Sergeant Daniel Tobin.

In response to Garrido’s whistleblowing (and also due the fact that he made a donation to the campaign of someone who was running for sheriff against then-sheriff Alex Villanueva), Villanueva and company reportedly brought criminal charges against Lt. Garrido.  They were charges that—according to our sources, and our own brief investigation—were provably untrue.

Garrido has since been exonerated.  

Meanwhile, when asked for a comment on the new lawsuit brought by Dr. Yolanda Cassidy, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department sent out the following email to reporters:

The tragic death of our beloved Department K-9 named “Spike” is unfortunate. Due to pending litigation, we are unable to provide further details at this point.  However, we can say a supervisory inquiry was conducted in 2020 and precautionary steps have been taken to ensure these incidents do not occur in the future. 

We understand about  “pending litigation.”  

But WitnessLA found the following phrases perplexing, especially if Sheriff Luna signed off on them:

  “…we can say a supervisory inquiry was conducted in 2020 and precautionary steps have been taken to ensure these incidents do not occur in the future.”

Our reporting suggests otherwise.


  • Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – King of lies, corruption and cover-ups.
    This article is indicative and only the tip of the iceberg of what actually happens.

    While staying on topic, know that it happens in the unions as well. I said it, so let’s move on.

    Crazy how Sgt Tobin appears in another cover-up.

  • Great follow up to a initial great prize winning story. Interesting fact how lies and exposure has taken out more Cops than actual shoot outs.

    The lawsuit by Veterinarian Dr. Cassidy gives much credence and validity as taxpayers are on the hook to pay.
    While not in agreement to “Defund the Police”, I do see why many citizens do.

    I guarantee percent that not one comment in this thread will refute my statement or any statement backing the LASD version of events.

  • @ City Dweller, so I believe the cover up is worse than the actual F***K Up. Anytime a Police K9 dies ( no matter cause of death) , the K9 is taken to the vet ( autopsy) & then ashes given to handler. In this case why did the vet give the K9 back to its handler and LT after it was dead upon arrival. And, what did the handler do … go bury the K9 in his backyard. WHF? No matter what… was Sheriff Bowlegs notified… YES he knew about it the very same day…. although he will lie, ( covered the incident up ) and deny it. The SEB K9 is property of County of Los Angeles and not the handlers personal K9. What lie was concocted for the vet to return the K9. Think about this shit people. There is no accountability.
    Can’t make this S**t up. We do have retards among us.

  • Surprised the division Chief (JE) wasn’t mentioned once. NOTHING gets handled at that bureau without his personal blessing..

  • Rumor has it the Sheriff got an earful from the deputies at Lancaster yesterday. I understand he vapor locked and didn’t know what to do.. You are in the sandbox now with the big boys and girls, Sheriff.

  • Chief JE covers everything up for his boys at the Bureau. Nothing to see here while the fraternity play. SEB boys get a free pass on everything. Commander T.G., Captain O.B., former SEB captain Chief J.W. are complicit as well. Sheriff needs to open his eyes to what is occurring at SEB.

  • Anonymous, what’s occurring at SEB? Why won’t you open OUR eyes as well? I’m sure you’re the same guy who was claiming SEB was down to 5 “OFFICERS” last week. Full of talk, no substance to any of it.

    SEB deputies are the hardest working deputies in the entire department but there will always be haters like you who try to throw dirt out of their own inadequacy. One big reason for the morale issue in the department is people like you with their negativity, always pulling someone else’s legs and running your mouth, but never pulling your own weight.

    If you really have something to say, why don’t you swing by ELA and tell us more? If anything you say has substance to it, any deputy here will take it to the Sheriff himself. But you won’t. Why? Because you’re full of shit. You’re probably someone who didn’t make the cut, so you comfort yourself by trying to put others down. “I’m better than them anyway/I didn’t want to get in anyway.”

    I’m going to wait for you to concoct a story now so you can feel better about yourself. Go ahead. Do your best.

  • @SW

    Is staffing keeping up with attrition levels? How many Deps are in each team compared to what there should be?

    How many WEEKS a month are you guys carping?

    How many breachers does the dept now have? And who’s responsible for that?

    What happened a few mos ago in La Puente? Why’d you guys have to relinquish control to LAPD? Who made that call and how’d the debrief go?

    This all comes down to one person, and he’s a few ranks below the sheriff….

  • @SW–Nicely put.

    @Gladimdone–John & Ken from KFI took Sheriff Milquetoast to task today. While playing a tape of him pandering to the media and BOS by slandering innocent deputies, they played a song called “I’m Your Puppet” beneath it. This is the same guy who wears a uniform jacket while giving an INDOOR press conference. Your sheriff is a one-man morale killer. Look for mass laterals out of the LASD just like the mass exodus from California to Florida.

  • The entire department is understaffed. How come it is a surprise to you that this is reflected in the staffing levels of divisions/bureaus of that very department? Many people retire or promote out, leaving vacancies in the teams. Filling vacancies is not as simple as grabbing any random dep off patrol and throwing them in the stack. There’s a long and comprehensive process to it, and rightfully so. This is not exclusive to SEB, or even the department. Since you know so much about everything and think it is exclusive to SEB, why don’t you ask LAPD SWAT if they have all of their 60 spots filled and see what they have to say? Must be the “one person” from LASD responsible for that too!

    Every problem you’ve mentioned plagues the ENTIRE department, and they’re only worsened by Debbie Downers like you. How many hours do detectives and deps in every other special assignment CARP every month? Stop trying to frame it as a problem exclusive to a single division, and ignorantly laying blame for it to any random person you can think of.

    I can tell you’ve never worked here from how superficial your understanding of the scenario re breachers is. Blaming the Chief… come on now!

    What happened in La Puente? Long hours are not uncommon, but deps had been standing out there for well over a day. Meanwhile, the guy was also sending rounds downrange every once in a while. Bodies were swapped for fatigued deps to rest, and eventually the only ones left to swap in was LAPD SWAT. There’s been a working relation with LAPD for years: from the North Hollywood Shootout to recently in LP.

    Again, since you know so much, why won’t you “open our eyes” and answer those questions yourself? I’m curious to see why/how you’ll try to justify a problem plaguing law enforcement in the entire country to being an LASD exclusive problem, and that too apparently because of the Chief.

    Don’t forget that the man you’re trying to paint as some evil person is a man with experience longer than most deps today (maybe even you) have even been alive for. He’s made his name working up every single assignment and is a well-respected figure in the law enforcement community even outside LASD. What about you? What are your achievements? Have you ever even worked those assignments or even personally met any one of the persons you’re blaming? Unlikely. Everything you’ve said so far seems to be a “I heard this about him from this random dep so it must be true.” Your type of deps are something else, really. Always gossiping and trying to pull others down, and never putting in any real work yourself.

  • @ Eldon,
    You must miss that Bow Legged Cowboy hat wearing clown VILLAN. All this is a result of his incompetence. We as a Department will be reaping from his F****d up decision-making process for years to come.
    Chief J.E has a ton of experience in Tactical Situations and rightfully so. However, I believe there were some shenanigans with respect to the K9. It was a F*** Up. Admit the F**k Up & move on. S**t happens. Like I said the cover up sometimes is worse than the F**k up.

  • @eldon hoke, John and Ken??? Those two who supported Villaconueva? Mandoyan? Who averted public disclosure of various matters? 4 years of a failed leader who now opines on everything but fails to take accountability for anything.

  • @John K and Wendy Byrde:

    You must’ve missed my previous comments where I took legitimate shots at AV. I’m no AV apologist and I won’t regurgitate my critiques of him here. Where I will defend him is that he was not a groveling yes-man to the BOS/media like Luna who, just recently, shit all over his own deputies in a presser and was later proven wrong. So much so that there is now a work slowdown in full protest.

    As for John & Ken, they are the same ones who eviscerated Paul Tanaka live in-studio and effectively destroyed his campaign back in 2014; in case you think there’s a right wing agenda in play. They liked AV because he was the only politician who made any strides toward dealing with drug-addled bums who are ruining tourist attractions, neighborhoods and small businesses (or to use the term “unhoused” in leftist parlance, if “bums” offends you).

    This sheriff is a flatlined, remote controlled arm of the county and state political oligarchy. At least AV had a set of balls dangling between his bowed legs.

  • @ Eldon Hoke

    AV was and will always be out of his league. Clearly evident nothing changed with him. Just had a bigger platform. AV tried so hard to be a “constitutional sheriff” in Democrat skin. He and his partner. So if you think AV had a “set of balls” well how did that work out for him? Voters saw he was a political train wreck. He never understood county government — actually he did, but he wanted to disrupt. Never could accept accountability. Oh, and AV made strides towards”drug addled bums…” YOU serious? All those photo ops with a cowboy hat in Venice were staged to garner Westside votes. AV took the “Trump” playbook and it failed. Again, nothing changed from his ELA days. The clown in the back row trying to be somebody, and he continues to be out there “rallying the troops.” Bow-legged ex-sheriff got a voter beat down. Total embarrassment to the LASD.

  • Amen John K. Local ice cream seller becomes CEO of Amazon. Complete failure. By the way, where’s creepy C these days?

  • The Villan’s entire tenure was a S**T Show. From his first week on the job to the end. Now he has the audacity to criticise Luna… Really!!! From hiring Creepy CM to having his boys Batman and Bigglesworth Burcher call the shots on Command personnel promotions. Hey BTW is Sheriff Luna asking Biggles for any advise. Didn’t think so. He is put in a corner where he can do no harm. Is any one asking the wanna be County Celebrity the former Mrs Sheriff for career advise. I bet those call all dried up. Oh and what happened to the “we are LASD wife’s club”

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