Home>Local>Gloucester>Prosecutor probing K9 dog death involving Mantua township committeeman

Mantua Township Committeeman Shawn Layton, the Gloucester County Fire Marshal, with his late K9, Ember. (Photo: Shawn Layton).

Prosecutor probing K9 dog death involving Mantua township committeeman

Gloucester official with political connections was responsible for dog that died in his vehicle

By David Wildstein, August 19 2022 12:01 am

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 Democratic township committeeman in Mantua, was entrusted with Ember, a three-year-old red fox Labrador Retriever who died on Friday while in Layton’s vehicle.

It’s still unclear if the dog’s death occurred during the early morning hours or during the day on Friday.  Temperatures reached 87 degrees that day.  There has been 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 informed him on Saturday morning.

“Everything was hitting the fan,” DiMarco said about his call with Bruner, who also serves as the Gloucester County Democratic Chairman

But Gloucester County Commissioner Christopher Konawel, Jr, a Republican, said at a board meeting on Wednesday that he learned of Ember’s death on Monday from an anonymous source.

Konawel sent emails to Bruner, county counsel Eric Campo, and other members of the Board of Commissioners seeking an immediate investigation.  There has been no response, he said.

The New Jersey Globe has confirmed that Sheriff Jonathan Sammons notified acting Gloucester County Prosecutor Christine Hoffman on Monday afternoon and her office impounded Layton’ vehicle shortly after.  The prosecutor, two sources confirmed, was not told of the K9 death until Sammons reached out.

K9 Ember, a dog assigned to Gloucester County Fire Marshal Shawn Layton. (Photo: Shawn Layton/Facebook).

It’s not clear if there are plans to suspend Layton from his county fire marshal post.  Bruner did not return a 2:26 PM call on Thursday seeking comment.

Layton was not taking calls, his office said on Thursday.

“K9 Ember deserves justice,” Konawel said.  “We lost one of our first responders.  It’s sickening.”

DiMarco said his own opinion is that Layton should not be benched from his job until Hoffman concludes her investigation.

“This to me is just an accident and I don’t think he should be pulled from his current position at this time,” DiMarco said.  “I don’t look at it like a police officer where you have to pull their weapon.  This kind of thing has happened before.”

Layton’s own dog also died on Friday as part of the same incident, DiMarco confirmed.

Ember had joined the Gloucester County Fire Marshal’s Office in 2020 after being trained 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 utilized by law enforcement or first responders.

Multiple individuals with direct knowledge of Gloucester County paint a picture of a close relationship between the Bruner and Layton families.  Bruner is a Mantua resident.

Public records show that Car Effex, an auto repair and customization company owned by Layton’s brother, Michael, does work for Gloucester County.  County billing records show that Car Effex had performed upfitting services on the Fire Marshal’s K9 vehicle in the past.

Standard procedure for outfitting K9 first responder vehicles includes an option for air conditioning to remain on while their handler is not present.  It’s not clear whether Layton’s county vehicle was properly outfitted.

Layton was appointed to the Mantua Township Committee in 2017, at age 25, following the resignation of Michael Silviano.  He was elected to an unexpired term that year – Senate President Steve Sweeney swore him in — and re-elected in 2018, and in 2021 by just 117 votes.

Democrats have a 5-0 majority on the Mantua Township Committee and if Layton were to resign before September 13, it would trigger a control election with three seats on the ballot 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 the Republican candidate for State Senate, former Woodlynne Councilman Clyde Cook, received 58% against Democratic incumbent Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Barrington).  In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in Mantua by a 52%-47% margin.

Mantua was moved to the 3rd legislative district during redistricting earlier this year.

WPVI-TV, the ABC local affiliate in Philadelphia, first reported the death of K9 Ember.

Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that CarEffex had provided emergency service upfitting on Layton’s current county vehicle.  But an attorney representing Car Effex maintains that the services were not related to anything more than decaling and that the invoice reflected Layton’s prior county vehicle.  Click HERE to read additional coverage.

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