A Wheat Ridge attorney has been retained by the owner of a pit bull mix shot to death by a Commerce City police officer on Saturday.
Jennifer Edwards, founder of the Animal Law Center, said today she intends to sue the Commerce City police. Among other things, the suit will claim a civil rights violation and possibly will seek damages for emotional distress. She will also try to block charges againtst the woman who was taking care of the 3-year-old dog, Chloe, while the owner was away.
The shooting, captured on a cell phone video by a neighbor, ignited outrage from people across the country who believe police overreacted. One critic has begun an online petition drive.
Police Chief Chuck Saunier announced Monday that he was launching a full-scale investigation. He said that early indications were that police acted properly to protect the public from what police call a vicious dog.
Police announced today that the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office will take over the shooting investigation. A statement said that Saunier asked the DA to handle the probe to ensure a thorough and unbiased third-party review.
“As law enforcement personnel, we want to maintain the highest standards and make sure our actions are above reproach,” said Saunier. “I remain optimistic that the investigation will determine all of the facts of this tragic event.”
Saturday’s incident began when authorities responded to a 911 call from a neighbor of the woman who had been taking care of the dog at her home in the 9600 block of Nucla Street. The neighbor, Kenny Collins, said the dog was running around the neighborhood in an aggressive manner. Collins later told 9News that he did not feel threatened by the dog and just wanted animal control to pick it up.
The dog had escaped from the woman’s garage.
Two police officers and an animal control officer showed up. One of them shot the dog with a Taser as it stood in the open garage. The animal control officer placed a “catch pole” around the dog’s neck. Police said the dog struggled and tried to attack her. Collins said later he thought the dog was just scared and trying to get away.
Several shots were fired, killing Chloe. Collins’ son videotaped the whole incident. A raw version of the video, which was obtained by 9News, is available at www.9news.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1989226020001
Edwards of the Animal Law Center said today that she was involved in another Commerce City dog shooting case several years ago. She sued on behalf of the family of the dog, but in 2010 a jury ruled the use of deadly force was justified.
She said, however, that the judge in that case found that killing someone’s companion animal could be a violation of the owner’s constitutional rights. She described it as an important step beyond the traditional notion that animals are simply property. She plans to use the principle in the current case.
In another development today, an online petition was launched, called “Hold Commerce City Police Responsible for Shooting Harmless Dog!” Christie Mueller, a member of Team Pit-a-Full, said the goal is 150,000 signatures.
“I care deeply about this cause, and I hope you will support our efforts,” said Mueller, who was among a group of two dozen protesters who held a candlelight vigil Monday night at Commerce City Civic Center.
View the petition at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/886/205/491/hold-commerce-city-police-responsible-for-shooting-harmless-dog/
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