Minneapolis police union 'fully supports' officer's decision to shoot dogs

The Minneapolis police officer who shot and wounded two dogs over the weekend while responding to an alarm “reacted correctly and in accordance with his training,” the head of the police union said in a statement Wednesday. Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis vice president Sherral Schmidt added, “This entire incident is tragic and shows how quickly incidents evolve and change.”

Jennifer LeMay said her two Staffordshire bull terriers, Rocko and Ciroc, survived the incident, though both were injured and required extensive medical treatment. The whole encounter was captured on video by surveillance cameras at the house in question after the officer responded to a security alarm that had been tripped by accident.

FIRST REPORT: Woman says Minneapolis police officer shot her dogs

Minneapolis Police Chief Harteau said the department is implementing mandatory training sessions for police-dog encounters in the future, and says the department hopes to help the family with their veterinary bills going forward.

"I’ve watched the video, and as someone whose family has included dogs most of my life, I can say that it was difficult to watch," Harteau said in the statement. "This was an outcome that no one wanted. I’ve asked for an Internal Affairs use of force review."

CHIEF: Mandatory trainings for police-dog interactions following weekend incident

In the security camera footage, the officer turns his back on the scene and jumps the fence out of the yard after discharging his weapon.

A report filed by the Minneapolis Police Department says the dogs "charged" at the officer after he entered through an open rear door at the residence, and that police called animal control and the owner after leaving the property to explain that the dogs had been shot.

FOLLOW-UP: Advocates decry lack of policy, records on police shootings of dogs

To LeMay and longtime friend Tasha Bacon, however, the video shows something else entirely.

"He wasn't charging anybody," Bacon said. "He came out like he always does--like, 'Hey, what's going on?'"
Both Staffordshire bull terriers, Rocko and Ciroc, are service dogs for Jennifer LeMay's children -- Ciroc helps maintain emotional regulation and alleviate anxiety while Rocko is trained to identify seizures.

Statement from the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis fully supports the Officer’s actions taken on the evening of July 8th, 2017 while responding to a Residential Alarm Call. It is a tragedy two dogs were injured in the process of the Officer’s response.

Our Officer arrived on scene and while he was checking the exterior of the residence, the officer noticed the rear door was open which lead him to believe there was a burglary or home invasion occurring. He jumped the fence to further investigate and moments later the Officer was confronted by two Pit Bulls. Our Officer attempted to back-pedal and create space between him and the Pit Bulls as well as yelling “Get back” at the dog. He realized turning his back on the Pit Bulls and attempting to jump back over the fence was not a viable option. The first Pit Bull growled at the Officer and slowly continued to advance towards the Officer. The Officer made the difficult decision to fire his service weapon upon the Pit Bulls to prevent injury to himself. Only moments after the shooting did he learn the Alarm was false and Ms. LeMay’s daughter was home and had accidentally set off the alarm.

Some have suggested the Officer should have allowed the Pit Bull to bite him. The thought process behind that is unreasonable. If a dog were to bite the Officer it could cause severe, potentially career ending injury, if not life ending.

This incident has solicited numerous suggestions about how the Officer should have handled the situation and Monday morning quarterbacking his actions. It is easy to judge an officer’s actions from the safety of one’s home with the ability to re-play the video over and over. In this line of work, Officers need to adapt and react to situations in the blink of an eye. This entire incident is tragic and shows how quickly incidents evolve and change. Officers have to be ready to react and adapt to anything at any given time. We ask this of our Officers every day they put the Uniform on. It is our position that our Officer adapted and reacted correctly and in accordance with his training to safely end this tense, rapidly evolving situation regarding the two Pit Bulls.

Sherral Schmidt
Vice President POFM

Response from LeMay's attorney, Michael Padden

First of all, reference to a rear door makes no sense. This residence does not have a rear door.

In a situation like this with an alarm, that was clearly canceled four minutes after it went off (the department has provided no information as to why they were not aware of this), the proper protocol is for at least one officer to knock on the front door to ascertain if this was a viable emergency. False alarms happen all the time in Minneapolis and throughout the state of Minnesota. It is important to note that this protocol should be followed before any officer even attempts to enter the property unless something overt occurs like a scream, sound of a gun, sound of a struggle, etcetera. Nothing of that nature occurred here, and the contention about the door is strange in the sense that this residence does not have a rear door.

There is absolutely no evidence on the surveillance video to suggest that either dog was aggressive. In fact, the "public" police report which alleges both dogs charged the officer in no way, shape, or form is supported by the surveillance video.

This is another example of false reporting in another high profile situation where a police report does not mirror video such as the Walter Scott case from South Carolina and the Laquan McDonald case from Chicago, Illinois.

This is also another example of a police union again revealing that when it comes to the conduct of police officers in the field, they completely lack objectivity.