JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 19-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to more than two decades in prison for killing a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office K-9 and kidnapping two women at gunpoint in September 2018.
Jhamal Paskel, who previously pleaded guilty to felony charges including killing a police dog, armed carjacking and two counts of kidnapping, was sentenced to 25 years in prison followed by 10 years' probation.
In handing down that sentence, Circuit Judge Gilbert Feltel Jr. found middle ground between the 35-year prison sentence sought by the state and the defense’s request for 15 years in prison along with rehabilitation.
The judge ordered Paskel to pay $8,000 restitution to the Sheriff’s Office, along with $518 in court fees. He must be employed while on probation, which could be reduced to five years with good behavior.
Paskel was last in court Oct. 19 when a judge heard testimony from K-9 Fang’s handler, Officer Matt Herrera, as well as Paskel and his mother, who asked for leniency. Paskel’s mother said her son has struggled with mental illness, but acknowledged that’s no excuse for what happened. She said he has taken steps to getting back on the right path, like obtaining his diploma.
According to police, Paskel, who was 17 at the time, carjacked two women at a gas station on Lem Turner Road on Sept. 30, 2018, and then made one of them drive as he held her at gunpoint. Since the car had an OnStar system, police tracked the vehicle to Interstate 10 near Cecil Commerce Parkway, where they had OnStar shut off the engine.
Paskel bailed out of the car and took off on foot with K-9 Fang in pursuit. Evidence showed Paskel shot and killed the police dog and continued running into the woods, where he was eventually taken into custody.
“I heard two gunshots back to back followed by a third. In between two and three, I heard Fang yelp, and soon as I came over the embankment, I kind of saw him coming to rest after falling and being shot,” Herrera recounted to News4Jax on Tuesday while he was working with a new K-9. “This animal, I spent more time with than my family. He was with me when I was with my family, but he was also with me when I was not with my family. So, it’s without a doubt, you get a humongous bond with this animal. All handlers feel this way.”
In 2019, after an I-TEAM investigation into the sentencing guidelines for killing a K-9, the Florida Legislature passed a law to increase killing a dog or horse working with police or other first responders to a second-degree felony and raised the maximum sentence from five years to 15 years.
JSO has remembered Fang as helping keep everyone safe at special events and football games and had captured some of the most dangerous criminals in Jacksonville.
“We are glad to bring this case to resolution,” State Attorney Melissa Nelson said in a statement Wednesday. “His senseless killing underscores the dangers law enforcement face every day and it sparked changes in state law. This outcome finally achieves justice to Fang’s memory.”