Prosecutor investigating K9 dog death involving Mantua Township committee member
The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the death of a K9 dog assigned to a politically connected county fire marshal, Shawn K. Layton.
Layton, who is also a member of the Mantua Township Democratic Committee, was given Ember, a three-year-old red fox Labrador retriever who died Friday while in Layton’s vehicle.
It remains unclear whether the dog’s death occurred early in the morning or during the day on Friday. Temperatures reached 87 degrees that day. There was no public comment from the county.
Frank DiMarco, the director of the board of commissioners, told the New Jersey Globe that county administrator Chad Bruner briefed him on Saturday morning.
“Everything was hitting the fan,” DiMarco said of his call with Bruner, who is also Gloucester County’s Democratic chairman.
But Gloucester County Commissioner Christopher Konawel, Jr, a Republican, told a board meeting Wednesday that he learned of Ember’s death Monday from an unnamed source.
Konawel sent emails to Bruner, County Attorney Eric Campo and other members of the Board of Commissioners asking for an immediate investigation. There was no response, he said.
The New Jersey Globe confirmed that Sheriff Jonathan Sammons notified Acting Gloucester County District Attorney Christine Hoffman on Monday afternoon, and that her office seized Layton’s vehicle shortly thereafter. The prosecutor, two sources confirmed, was not told of K9’s death until Sammons reached out.
It is unclear whether there are plans to suspend Layton from his position as county fire marshal. Bruner did not respond to a 2:26 p.m. Thursday call seeking comment.
Layton was not taking calls, his office said Thursday.
“K9 Ember deserves justice,” Konawel said. “We lost one of our first responders. It’s disgusting.
DiMarco said his own opinion is that Layton should not be fired from her job until Hoffman completes her investigation.
“To me, it was just an accident and I don’t think he should be removed from his current position at this time,” DiMarco said. “I don’t see it as a policeman where you have to pull out your gun. This sort of thing has happened before. »
Layton’s own dog also died Friday in the same incident, DiMarco confirmed.
Ember had joined the Gloucester County Fire Marshal’s Office in 2020 after training at the John “Sonny” Burke Police K-9 Academy at the Atlantic County Police Training Center.
State law provides stricter penalties for those who abuse animals that are used by law enforcement or first responders.
Several people with direct knowledge of Gloucester County paint a picture of a close relationship between the Bruner and Layton families. Bruner is a resident of Mantua.
Public records show that Car Effex, an auto repair and customization company owned by Layton’s brother Michael, works for Gloucester County. County billing records show Car Effex performed emergency response fit-up services on the Fire Marshal’s K9 vehicle.
Standard procedure for equipping K9 first responder vehicles includes an option for the air conditioning to remain on while their handler is not present. It is unclear if the Layton County vehicle was properly equipped.
Layton was appointed to the Mantua Township Committee in 2017, aged 25, following the resignation of Michael Silviano. He was elected to an unexpired term that year — Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney swore him in — and re-elected in 2018 and 2021 by just 117 votes.
Democrats have a 5-0 majority on the Mantua Township Committee and if Layton were to step down before September 13, it would trigger a control election with three ballot seats in November.
Despite Democratic majorities locally, Mantua has voted Republican in recent years. GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli won 58% in Mantua last year, and Republican state Senate candidate, former Woodlynne adviser Clyde Cook, won 58% against the incumbent Democrat Nidia Cruz-Perez (D-Barrington). In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in Mantua by a 52% to 47% margin.
Mantua was moved to the 3rd Legislative District in a redistricting earlier this year.
WPVI-TV, the local ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, first reported the death of K9 Ember.