On February 24, 2012, two Pembroke Pines police officers were dispatched to the Jones residence in response to a security guard’s complaint of a loose dog in the neighborhood. Upon their arrival, the front door was ajar, and the dog in question, Baxter, a six-year-old Australian Shepherd, was sitting in the living room chair looking out the front window. At that time, the officers exited their patrol vehicle and shined a light into the room of the family’s thirteen-year-old son, Cameron. One of the officers motioned him to come down the stairs, and he complied with the officers’ request.
Once Cameron began to descend the stairs, Baxter exited the home and began barking at the officers. Cameron then neared the front door, and one of the officers yelled, “Come get your dog before I shoot him.” Cameron made it outside to the edge of the landing of the front walkway, and at that time, the officer proceeded to fire six consecutive shots at Baxter. Cameron was approximately 18 feet from Baxter at the time the firearm was discharged. At no point did Cameron witness the dog “attack” the officers. The officer who fired the shots claimed that Baxter was biting the boot of his partner.
Medical reports from the veterinarian who treated Baxter confirm that three bullets entered the dog. After he was shot, he managed to flee from the scene of the shooting. After hearing the gun shots and Baxter’s cries, Cameron’s eighteen-year-old sister tried to exit the home, but was denied the right and ordered immediately to go back inside. Meanwhile, Baxter was bleeding profusely and writhing in pain on the side of the house. At the time, the officers did not know that the arrival of the father of the household was imminent. Once he did arrive, not one of the several officers present indicated to the owner the location of Baxter. Frantically, the head of the household searched for the dog, and finally found him helplessly sprawled on the side of the house. Baxter was immediately rushed to an animal hospital where he was treated for gunshot wounds to the chest, leg and exit wounds throughout his back. Miraculously, Baxter survived the gunshots and after undergoing countless procedures and spending a week in the hospital, he returned home with his family. Two weeks later, Baxter lost his fight – he passed away leaving the family devastated.
Questions and Concerns:
· Why would an officer, who was called to investigate a loose dog, not have another means of subduing this “threat” other than his firearm?
· Why would an officer summon a child to retrieve his dog, and within seconds, fire six shots?
· Why would an officer be more concerned about his partner’s boot than that of the safety of a thirteen year old child, not to mention the psychological horror he was inflicting upon the child by committing this act in his presence?
· Why would an officer feel the need to shoot a dog six times? What constitutes excessive use of force?
· Why would an officer shoot a dog while it was supposedly biting his partner’s boot? Would this not endanger his partner’s life as well, especially in light of the fact that three shots missed the dog?
· Why would the officers at the scene allow a dog that has been shot several times to suffer in pain and not allow the owners to administer first-aid?
· What type of training do Pembroke Pines officers receive concerning the response procedures for a loose dog? On the night of the incident the officer in question was in the process of training a rookie officer. Is this how the Pembroke Pines Police Department wants its officers to be trained? Summon a thirteen year old child to retrieve his dog and then have more concern about his partner’s boot and dislodge his firearm six times 18 feet from a 13 year old boy. Two points to be made about the alleged bite on the boot. First, official police records indicate there was never a mark on the boot. Second, a neighbor who had arrived at the scene immediately after hearing the shooting asked the officer why he had shot the dog, and he responded that he had been bitten. The eye witness then asked to see the bite-marks, and the story was immediately changed, with the officer claiming “We don’t need to wait to be bitten to shoot.” Quite simply, the dog was barking and was doing what most dogs would do. Such a fabrication could be seen as an attempt to avoid the consequences of an unwarranted shooting.