As a police dog, Viper was just doing his job when he sniffed out a hidden stash of cocaine last July. But then he bit into the package — ingesting enough to kill him. And now, a year later, the man responsible for the cocaine faces 11 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to several drug-related charges Friday, the Associated Press reports.
In an undercover sting operation, federal agents had ordered a kilogram of cocaine from Jamie Gonzalez-Lopez. The 33-year-old then hid the stash in a field in Brunswick County, N.C. Once agents caught up with Gonzalez-Lopez and arrested him, they sent Viper, a Belgian Malinois, into the field to sniff out the drugs. Viper bit into the package and shook, causing him to ingest a fatal amount. He was taken to an emergency hospital and pronounced dead the following morning.
Canine homicide wasn’t one of the official charges Gonzalez-Lopez faced, though it probably didn’t help his case. He pleaded guilty to charges that included possession with the intent to distribute, distributing 500 grams or more of cocaine, and possession with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan sentenced him to 11 years and 3 months in prison.
Shortly following the dog’s death, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office hosted a memorial service to honor him. More than 200 people attended.
“They’re not pets,” Cpl. Brian Chism told WECT, a local NBC affiliate. “They’re deputies. They deserve the same respect that any other deputy would if he died in the line of duty.”