A former Thurston County Sheriff’s Office K9 handler says he plans on challenging Sheriff John Snaza when his position is up for reelection in 2022.
Tyler Turpin, 30, is a former Thurston County deputy and the owner of former police dog and social media star Arlo.
Turpin said he was ousted from the sheriff’s office earlier this year after a police pursuit last January resulted in law enforcement opening fire on a suspect. Arlo was also shot by deputies in the process, according to investigatory findings.
Arlo’s recovery — which was chronicled extensively on Turpin’s social media accounts in the days and months following — quickly put the pup, deputy and agency into the public spotlight. A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign raised more than $73,000 for the dog’s recovery, as the agency’s K9 program is completely funded through community donations.
On April 7, after the department retired Arlo out of worry for his condition, Turpin purchased him from the department for $1. Nearly three weeks later, on April 25, Turpin departed his job at the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office due to internal pressure, he said.
Turpin officially announced his candidacy on his Arlo Instagram account Wednesday, May 26. The account has more than 123,000 followers. He later announced on his TikTok account, which has 2.6 million followers.
Though the filing period doesn’t take place for another year, this would be John Snaza’s first challenger since assuming office a decade ago. Snaza told The Chronicle on Tuesday he plans to run for reelection.
Goals With Candidacy
In an interview with The Chronicle, Turpin said his motivation to run is rooted in dispelling a “good ol’ boys club” type mentality he’s seen within the department. His hope is to bring a more sociable face to the department and move it to become more transparent with the public, especially in the wake of police reform following the George Floyd murder.
Turpin said he was unable to comment on the January incident as there are portions of it that are still under investigation. His decision to run, no less, was impacted by the event.
“There’s a lot of good people that work there, but I think there needs to be a new face in the administration,” said Turpin, who is currently looking for a new job in law enforcement. “It’s a huge responsibility. You have a lot of people who are relying on you, and I think I’m in a good situation where I could make a good impact in that department.”
Turpin grew up in Beaverton, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, and went to high school in Longview. After high school, he served in the Coast Guard Reserve for eight years, in maritime enforcement, before landing his first law enforcement job with the University of Washington campus police. He also worked as an emergency room tech at a hospital, he said.
In November 2018, Turpin said he was hired on by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy and was later assigned to the department’s K9 program in late 2019 with the addition of Arlo as its fourth unit.
If elected to the sheriff’s seat, Turpin said he’d like to build stronger relationships with other Thurston County municipalities to solve broader problems, including the region’s growing homelessness crisis. He said he would also like to work to bring body cameras to Thurston County, something Turpin says the department is lagging behind on.
He said he would like to bridge the administrative divide he feels has grown between the department’s leaders, whose offices are located at the county courthouse in Olympia, and the broader force based out of Tumwater.
Turpin said a another goal of his, if elected, would be to help stimulate public involvement in the agency.
“The public, I want them to feel like they’re part of this and can be part of the changes that are made,” he said. “And on our side, though, we need to address the recruiting and staffing problem.”
Turpin and four other Thurston County Sheriff’s Office deputies and one Washington State Patrol trooper were placed on administrative leave following the shooting that struck Arlo and a 25-year-old suspect. The suspect, who was reportedly being investigated on sex crimes and was hoping to be fatally shot, was allegedly armed that night, though never fired his weapon.
Not much information was released in the aftermath of the shooting about the suspect and his condition, from either Mason County or Thurston County law agencies.
But over the last several months, Turpin and Arlo have done multiple free meet-and-greets with the community at events. He noted that Arlo has recovered to about 85% of his health from before the shooting.
“The community's supported us so much that we’ve wanted to bring that back to them, and let them meet him,” he said.
Turpin said he felt he was unjustly abandoned by his department following the January incident. He hopes that a change in administration will ensure what happened to him and Arlo never happens to another deputy again.
Sheriff’s Office Opens Financial Probe: ‘I Think They Think I’m Stealing Money’
Turpin’s social media finances related to his Arlo accounts were probed by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office last February.
The agency also barred him temporarily from any “off-duty employment,” according to a letter sent to him by Field Operations Chief Deputy Brad Watkins. The Chronicle has requested more information on the investigation and its findings.
Watkins did not return a phone call two months ago, when The Chronicle obtained the letter, inquiring about the reasoning for the department obtaining Turpin’s financial records.
Turpin said in response he disclosed to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office that he made roughly $580 on TikTok through the application’s Creator Fund, all of which he said went to purchasing camera materials to film Arlo.
He’s since donated “every dime” he’s made to the K-9s of Valor Foundation, a nonprofit that donates equipment to K9 officers, he said. Turpin said he’s donated around $5,000 to the organization this year.
In the time since he first started posting videos of Arlo on TikTok and Instagram, Turpin has also started his own clothing company, Varlo, alongside another K9 social media influencer. The company also partners with K-9s of Valor.
“We were never once in TikTok to make money. That was never a thing, and so when our name is being tricked around, it’s really frustrating when people don’t know what’s going on,” said Turpin, who said he was hands-off on the Arlo GoFundMe campaign.
“I think there was a lot of things said. I think they think I’m stealing money,” he said of the department.
Turpin noted he has never made money from Instagram and hasn’t accepted any financial donations at meet-and-greets.
“I do think that people who want to run for sheriff, they should if they want to. I don’t have any issue with that. You always want, hopefully, the best person that’s going to represent the law and citizens as you can, and I hope that I’ve done that,” Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said on Tuesday. “I plan on being the sheriff for many more years.”
Snaza said he wants to continue serving because he feels he’s not done “making a difference” in the lives of his constituents. He noted that he’s encouraged his staff to run for sheriff if they feel they’re called upon for higher office.
Snaza said he’s “really not happy with how Tyler left the sheriff’s office, but that’s on him.” He declined to go into any more detail on his departure.