COLUMBIA CITY — The individual charged in the death of K9 Officer Cas in 2019 was sentenced this week in Whitley County Circuit Court.
Clarence L. Shearer III, 33, of Fort Wayne, received a 10 year sentence in Whitley County on the charges of possession of a firearm, a Level 4 felony, and OWI causing the death of a law enforcement animal, a Level 6 felony.
The incident began July 10, 2019. Shearer had fled a robbery in Marshall County, through Kosciusko County and was pursued by state police into Whitley County. Whitley County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Archbold attempted to deploy stop sticks at U.S. 30 near County Road 450 W. Shearer swerved to avoid, them striking Archbold’s cruiser with K9 Cas inside. The car burst into flames, trapping the animal.
The sentence Tuesday morning was the result of a plea agreement made between Shearer and the state. The decision before the judge was whether to accept the plea agreement, but also if the sentence should be served consecutively or at the same time as the sentence Shearer received in Marshall County.
Defense Attorney Anthony Churchward argued that the gun possession Shearer is charged with in Whitley County was the same weapon used in the robbery Shearer was charged with in Marshall County. He said that since the incidents were connected the sentences should be served concurrently.
Prosecuting Attorney DJ Sigler disagreed, saying there was a significant amount of time that passed between the two counties, time that Sigler said Shearer could have used to change his course of actions and “desist from criminal activity.”
Sigler spent a great deal of time reflecting on the impact the offenses had to the victims in the case. First he talked about Officer Archbold, who he said lost a valuable partner he trained with and kept in his home. He also discussed the impact on the law enforcement team who lost one of their own. Sigler also what could not be forgotten is the effect Cas’ death had on the entire community.
When word first spread of her passing, the community shared its shock and sadness. They placed wreaths and flowers on police cruisers parked on the Whitley County Courthouse lawn. Statues and other art work were made in Cas’ honor, donations were made to the local animal shelter in her honor, and so much more. At her funeral, community members lined the streets as her casket traveled to its resting place, each wanting to say goodbye. Fellow K9 units from around the state also attended the funeral, giving their respects.
“The enormous outpouring across the state and nation for this animal, this officer, and this community is unbelievable,” Sigler said. “The effect on the community cannot be understated and it ripples far beyond that particular day.”
When Shearer was asked if he had anything to say to the court, his response was, “nothing good.”
Circuit Court Judge Matthew Rentschler acknowledged there were many things to ponder in this case, one of which being the possession of a firearm (Level 4 felony) was a higher level offense than the death of a law enforcement animal (Level 6 felony). He noted that the maximum sentence for a Level 6 felony was 2.5 years.
“That’s just the way our law works,” he said, adding that those in the community who have frustrations with this should contact their legislators in order to give future courts a different option.
Judge Rentschler also said after reviewing state statute that might have connected the two possession offense, the one in Marshall County and Whitley County, did not apply, adding that the Marshall County case is considered a crime of violence. That saying, it would be up to the court’s discretion whether to have Shearer serve his sentence consecutive to the Marshall County sentence or not.
The judge said the aggravating factors in the case far outweighed mitigators, citing Shearer’s prior criminal record, lack of employment history, that he was on parole on one case and probation for another when the offense occurred and his lack of remorse.
In the end Judge Rentschler decided to make Shearer’s sentence consecutive to the one he had received in Marshall County. There he received a 26 year sentence. Combined with the 10 year sentence in Whitley County, Shearer has a 36 year sentence. Judge Rentschler ordered his Whitley County sentence to be served in its entirety at the Indiana Department of Corrections.