Remember that pooch that was thrown off the Alcoa Highway bridge on Jan. 13 in the middle of the night? That beautiful brown and white female mixed breed. The more you think about it the madder one can get – how could someone, anyone, do such a thing? Knoxville Police Department (KPD) Officer Kevin Aguilar is right there with you.
Officer Aguilar is Our Town Hero this week, and it’s no wonder. It was Officer Aguilar who found the dog, now named “Good Sam.”
He was sitting in his cruiser with his windows cracked, 30 feet below the highway, on that dark and chilly night. He was hoping to eat his dinner and do some paperwork. It was 3 a.m., give or take, he says. He first heard a man’s voice, screaming and yelling the “F” bomb many times over. Then it got quiet.
Then he heard the “thud.”
“I had no idea what it was because it was so dark, so I listened for a few seconds and turned on my spotlight. I scanned out in front of me from right to left and then I saw these two eyes looking my way,” he says. “Then I heard the whining and yelps and I knew it was a dog. It was about 20 or 30 yards in front of me.”
He slowly drove his cruiser towards the dog with his headlights on. Based on training, he approached slowly to help keep the dog calm and not get bitten until he could assess the situation a little better.
“She laid down and kinda went rigid and I thought she was dead for a moment. But when I got to her I was talking to her to calm her and then she tried to sit up. I could tell then she was severely injured. She was bleeding from her mouth and all four paws were bleeding,” he said. “But she was sweet and didn’t bark or growl at me or try to bite me. She let me handle her. But no way did I think she would survive being thrown 30 feet off that bridge.”
Then he thought what we all thought. “I was kneeling down with her and said to myself who in the world could do this to an innocent little dog – and why. This poor defenseless dog. Every time I think about it I get mad and the longer it is the madder I get.
After he called it into KPD dispatch, his next step was to call his shift partner, Officer Chris Williams, who is a K-9 officer. “I knew he has some towels and things in his car we might need,” Aguilar said.
To pinpoint the location, he said the vehicle on the highway above stopped about 100 feet short of the southbound exit to Kingston Pike and Cumberland Avenue. The dog landed very close to Tyson Park.
When Williams arrived, they carefully wrapped the dog in towels and carried her to Aguilar’s cruiser and laid her in the back seat, making sure she was comfortable and would not slide around on the way to the University of Tennessee Vet Clinic. He said that dispatch had notified the UT clinic that they were coming.
The dog is estimated to be between 1 to 2 years old, and her name, for now, is “Good Sam” for Good Samaritan,” said Janet Testerman, CEO of the Young-Williams Animal Center. Good Sam was moved from the UT Clinic earlier last week to Young-Williams and is now with a medical foster family for an estimated 8 to 10 weeks.
“She’ll likely be up for adoption at some point, and given that this is a cruelty investigation, she will remain in our custody until that investigation is concluded before she’s even available,” Testerman said. And she added: “It doesn’t matter how much it costs. We are absolutely going to give this puppy a second chance, get her whole and get her healthy.”
Aguilar, 26, moved to Knoxville from Los Angeles in June 2001. His father had visited a family member here in the spring and fell in love with Knoxville. So he sold his carpentry business and he and his wife moved here with their five children. Aguilar, the youngest, was in the third grade then and they lived on the Union County side of Corryton. He graduated from Union County High School.
He has a 7-year-old son, Liam, from a previous relationship and is a single Dad rearing his son. But he’s engaged now to Destiney Teeple, who works in labor and delivery at Park West Medical Center. Also, he’s the only member of his family born in the U.S. His parents and four siblings have all attained their U.S. citizenship since the move to Knoxville.
Aguilar was hired by the KPD in February 2018 and graduated from the Police Academy in August 2018. He’s been on the night shift since and his patrol area roughly includes the University of Tennessee campus north to Callahan Road.
He is fluent in Spanish and is often needed and used as a translator.
Growing up in Los Angeles, he always thought he would be a member of the LAPD. Why police work? “I enjoy being there and helping people and I know I can’t help everybody, but to help a person or a kid one on one is special. And dogs, too,” he said.
And about finding Good Sam and probably saving her life, this humble young man would only say: “I was just in the right place at the right time for her, and I’m really, really glad I was.”
Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals. Watch for this feature every Monday on KnoxTNToday, and if you have suggestions about a first responder/emergency-services professional we need to feature, please email Tom King or call him at 865-659-3562.