Report: Officer’s child let K9 out to play before bite

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K9 Ace “snapped” at Adrian, son of K9 Officer Esteban Bustillos

Waco – On Sunday evening, June 21, Deputy Esteban Bustillos left his partner, K9 Ace, a Belgian Malinois, trained to detect drugs and attack aggressors, in the care of his parents.

Bustillos and Ace have a short history together. It all started when he was transferred to his duties as a dog handler for the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office and took Ace to a training school in Louisiana to become certified.

Things didn’t work out so well while they were there. Ace proved to be overly aggressive. He “snapped” at trainers. Officials at the dog training company let honchos at Sheriff’s headquarters know he was in need of either re-training, or destruction due to his violent tendencies. Bustillos’ supervisors elected to have Ace re-trained and certified as a K9 drug detection and patrol dog.

After a period of re-training, Bustillos became the certified handler of his partner, Ace, who had been partnered previously with Deputy Joesph Ballew. A Corporal, Ballew had been offered the choice of remaining a dog handler and take an extensive cut in pay, or keep his rank as Corporal, and transfer to night patrol duties under the supervision of former Lieutenant Chris Eubank, who had resigned, then re-hired as a Sergeant in charge of a deep night shift that covers the county from dusk to dawn.

In the interim, an extensive internal investigation revealed that fellow officers had observed Eubank and Ballew snapping a cap pistol at Ace while he was confined to a kennel in the rear of Ballew’s SUV patrol unit. Witnesses gave statements relating how the pair banged on the rear panels of the vehicle, making Ace charge from side to side violently enough to cause the carry-all to rock from his motions.

In a bizarre incident, Ballew had persuaded Ace to attempt to leap to the top of a filing cabinet in an office at Sheriff’s Office headquarters. He missed his goal and wound up on a desktop, where another deputy was working at a computer console. Startled, he rolled his office chair away from the floundering dog and received a minor wound when Ace “snapped” at his elbow as he fell to the floor. Ace’s training regimen left him in no mood for horse play. He had become an unpredictable actor, even when in the custody of experienced handlers.

But on Sunday, June 21, Bustillos left his partner in his bedroom at his parents’ home in Waco, where he thought he would be safe from any provocation.

He wasn’t counting on his son, an eight-year-old named Adrian, wanting to play with Ace. Adrian let Ace out of the room and he wandered around the house during the childrens’ visit. When his mom, Penny Walter, came to take him home after his visit with his grandparents, the boy attempted to pet Ace and say goodbye.

Ace suddenly snapped at him, a canine tooth grazing his forehead. The sudden – doggy spasm – left a one-inch incision in the child’s skin, which a doctor closed with six sutures.

What will happen to Ace?

That’s up to officials of the Sheriff’s Office. For now, he is under quarantine at a veterinarian’s kennel in Woodway. Records kept on his health care show he has been inoculated against the perils of both being bitten and biting other creatures, great and small.

Ms. Walter reported, “This dog is known to be aggressive and he was living in the house without Estaban’s supervision around small children. Esteban was at church and left the dog unsupervised and uncaged. The dog Ace was completely unprovoked when the attack occurred.”

In his defense, Bustillos said in an official statement, “Both of my children, Adrian and Jacob, have been told that they are not to play with K9 Ace while I am not present and that is why he is placed either in my room, or outside away from them when I am not there.”

In his narrative, he noted that “K9 Ace did not lunge at him and immediately backed away. K9 Ace did not attempt to attack him, or pursue any kind of further violence against my son.”

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