ST. GEORGE — The man who pleaded guilty to crimes related to the 2017 shooting of K-9 Tess was sentenced this week, but while prison was a certainty in the case, the amount of time was in question.
Alvie Jared Grover, 57, of St. George, appeared Tuesday in 5th District Court for sentencing on three second-degree felonies, including two counts of theft of a firearm or vehicle and criminal mischief, as well as a third-degree felony count of injuring/interfering with a police animal. The case is related to the shooting of K-9 officer Tess in August 2017.
Grover pleaded guilty to the charges during a hearing in December.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the state agreed to dismiss three of the charges, including possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, failure to stop at command of police – both third-degree felonies – as well as one misdemeanor count of reckless driving.
Tess was a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois that had worked for the Sheriff’s Office for a little more than four years when she was shot twice while attempting to apprehend a suspect, later identified as Grover, during a carjacking incident Aug. 29.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the defendant appeared with his attorney, Ryan Stout, who told District Judge Eric Ludlow that his client provided a 35-page document to the court regarding his medical conditions along with other information relative to sentencing, which the court had not received.
Stout also said it has been more than 20 years since his client had a felony case, adding that the 2017 crimes were committed during a single “criminal episode” that was drug-induced and that his client would benefit from substance abuse treatment.
However, Ludlow said the defendant has been in the system for the last 40 years and could have received the treatment he needed at any point during that time.
Stout then said the only real issue before the court is whether to sentence Grover to serve his prison sentences concurrently or consecutively.
“I’m asking the court to run those (sentences) concurrent to each other,” Stout said.
Grover also addressed the court, saying “it was a shame” the incident ever happened.
“I ended up with 19 bullet holes,” he said, adding that it was very painful.
Ludlow then asked, “Do you know why you were shot?”
“I know exactly why I was shot,” Grover said.
“You were being noncompliant,” the judge said.
Grover went on to say that he “forced” deputies to use their service rifles that night and admitted that he refused to comply or exit the truck when ordered by the officers.
“It was completely my fault,” Grover said, adding that he felt bad for the deputies, saying they were most victimized during the incident because “no one goes to work thinking, ‘I’m going to shoot this guy or that guy’ — criminal or no criminal.”
And yet, he said, that was the position he put them in, which was “messed up, and it wasn’t their fault. I know I’m going to prison.”
“You’re right. You are going to prison,” Ludlow said.
Deputy Mike Graff, Tess’s handler when the incident took place, also testified during Tuesday’s hearing. Referring to the night in question, he said that what the defendant did was a “callous, cowardice act to shoot a police K-9.”
Graff explained that the bullet entered K-9 Tess’s face and broke the back of her jaw before it continued around the back of her jaw where it struck the third vertebrae in the dog’s neck, fracturing it.
“That bullet is still lodged in her neck,” he said. Graff said Grover had time to stop before anything happened, “but he chose not to.”
The deputy was told by emergency staff shortly after the incident that Tess wouldn’t be able to eat, drink or take in any nutrients through her mouth because of the injuries sustained in the shooting and that she likely would not survive.
At that point the decision was made to fly the animal to Las Vegas for treatment.
The only reason Tess survived, Graff said, was due to a specialist at the clinic that day who was able to reconstruct the bones in the dog’s neck.
Graff went on to say that shortly after the shooting, Tess retired, five years earlier than she should have, adding that the dog is still young and energetic and wants to work. He said that every day when he goes to work, “she still wants to go with me.”
“She doesn’t know why she doesn’t get to do what she loves to do, but I do,” he said.
On the night of the alleged incident, Graff said, both Tess and another officer fell away from the truck Grover was hiding in at the moment the dog was shot, which is when officers, including Graff, fired at the vehicle.
“It wasn’t something I wanted to do,” the deputy said.
Graff also said the effects left in the wake of the incident went beyond Tess and himself but extended to his family and the other officers as well.
As such, the deputy asked the court to run the sentences consecutively so that Grover “can sit in prison and serve time” for each crime, one sentence after another.
Prosecutor Zachary Weiland addressed the court by saying that the actions of the defendant were senseless and violent, “and in essence they put all of Washington County in danger.”
The prosecutor said the defendant forced the officers to use deadly force.
“He has shown no remorse, no empathy, and he continues to be involved in criminal behavior.” Weiland also asked that the sentence for each offense run consecutively.
However, Stout said he has seen a big change in his client, “particularly within the last six months.” He said Grover will still serve additional time in prison, even if the sentences are concurrent, due to the sentencing matrix.
Ludlow started off by telling Grover, “I don’t think you need a lecture from the court.” He went on to say there are two types of individuals that end up in prison: One type goes to prison for a crime so heinous that it impacts the community in such a way that the very nature of the crime results in a prison sentence.
“You qualify for that,” the judge said.
The second type of person has a criminal record that “goes on and on and on,” he said. In this case, Grover’s criminal record spans about four decades, beginning with a robbery conviction in 1980.
“You are lucky that you stand before the court today because under the circumstances, and with what took place that night, you should be dead,” Ludlow said.
Ludlow then ordered Grover to serve 1-15 years on each of the three second-degree felonies and up to five years in prison on the third-degree charge.
Grover was also convicted of two misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief in unrelated cases and was sentenced to serve six months in jail on each charge.
The court also found that aggravating circumstances were present in the case, including causing a substantial monetary loss, severe physical or psychological injury to more than one victim and to the K-9 unit, and the offense exhibited extreme cruelty or depravity.
Additionally, the judge said, the defendant is a “repeat offender that demonstrated a previous willful inability to comply in a restrictive setting.”
As such, Judge Ludlow ordered that all counts run consecutive to one another.
The defendant was ordered to begin serving his sentence immediately. A transport order to Utah State Prison was signed during Tuesday’s hearing, as credit for time served fulfilled both jail terms, being that Grover has been in custody for more than 880 days since his arrest in September 2017.
The incident that led to the shooting of Tess
The August 2017 incident started after Glover caused a disturbance at a gas station on Bluff Street. While police were en route, it was reported that Glover committed a carjacking and drove off with a truck that he ultimately crashed. He then took another truck, and a short pursuit ensued until the suspect crashed the second vehicle into a residence in a Santa Clara neighborhood.
During negotiations with police, Tess was deployed and was later shot by Grover. At that point, multiple officers from multiple agencies fired on the vehicle and the suspect.
Grover was later arrested after he was released from the hospital.
Tess went into early retirement several months later, and Graff, the animal’s human partner, accepted a position with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office and relocated to northern Utah. The duo were reunited when Graff purchased the dog from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office later that year as a family pet.
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