An investigation is still ongoing into the shooting of a dog last week that allegedly threatened a police officer.
At about 10:20 a.m. Wednesday, officers from the Tooele City Police Department responded to the Pratt Aquatic Center on a report of a man with a gun.
During the ensuing search of nearby Tooele City Park and the surrounding area, an officer going to look in a field northwest of the park saw a large dog advancing towards him from 270 West in a threatening manner but then stopped, according to an incident report from the Tooele City Police Department.
The officer resumed looking in the field, but glanced back and saw the dog coming again towards him and shot it, according to the report.
The report was written by an officer that was present in the area and witnessed the incident but who was not involved himself.
The dog, a 3-year-old Mastiff mix, was injured from the shooting, and was put down by a veterinarian later that morning due to the extent of the injuries.
The man with a gun was later determined to be a teenage boy carrying a rifle-like stick.
The dog’s owners, Marvin Brown and Denise Gordon of Tooele, said last Wednesday they were upset by the officer’s actions. They felt his actions were unjustified because of the temperament of their dog and, due to the number of shots that hit the dog, were excessive.
They also said they were angry that the dog was not immediately taken to a vet for care, but that there was a delay of about 20 minutes before an animal control officer transported the dog. Brown and Gordon said they were both away from home at the time of the shooting, but arrived soon after.
Capt. Paul Wimmer of the Tooele City Police Department, said the officer fired a total of 13 rounds at the dog, and the officer’s firearm, when fully loaded, holds 16 rounds. Wimmer said the dog suffered seven wounds, but which of those were entrance and exit wounds was still under investigation.
Named “Brutus,” the large, tan dog that reportedly loved to play with a neighbor’s dog had been in trouble with police before.
According to records from the Tooele City Police Department, Brutus had been declared a potentially dangerous animal in November 2011 after biting a child. The 10-year-old boy, who reportedly had played with the dog in the past, was walking home on 270 West when Brutus, who lived nearby and had pulled free from his chain, allegedly bit him on the leg.
Brutus was ordered by the police department to be licensed as potentially dangerous. Other provisions included not being allowed to be chained in the front yard and having to stay in a dog run or fenced-off back and side yard; having to be kept on a leash when off property; being microchipped as a potentially dangerous animal; and its owners having to notify animal control if moved to another property in the city.
After that incident, Gordon was cited for having a vicious, dangerous or noisy animal, according to court records.
On Oct. 31 of this year, another hearing was held about Brutus after he chased some chickens in a nearby yard. The chicken found in Brutus’ mouth by the flock’s owner was unhurt, according to the record of the hearing.
At the hearing, police determined Brutus had not been licensed or microchipped as a potentially dangerous animal, and that none of the other provisions from the previous hearing had been followed, according to a record of the hearing from the police department.
Gordon and Brown said they had not seen the restrictions from the department from 2011. Officers argued that the provisions had been delivered by certified mail and signed for by Gordon’s daughter.
In the hearing, Brown told police he had taken Brutus to Sanpete County soon after the hearing in 2011 and had only brought him back about a month ago. The department opted to keep Brutus’ designation as a potentially dangerous animal and renewed the provisions from 2011, according to the record.
Additionally, Brutus’ owners were required to have him vaccinated, licensed and microchipped before he was allowed to leave the animal shelter, as well as get fencing and liability insurance for the dog.
Lt. Adrian Day of the Tooele City Police Department, said the officer involved in the shooting did not know of Brutus’ history or status as a potentially dangerous animal at the time of the incident.
Tooele City Police Chief Ron Kirby said the investigation would be looking into whether the officer followed police procedure and state law throughout the incident. Both the officer and the dog were on city property the entire time, he said.
According to the incident report from last week, police were forwarding the report to the Tooele City Attorney’s Office to screen for possible charges against the dog’s owner. Tooele City Attorney Roger Baker said in an email Tuesday morning that his office had not yet received the report but would screen it for possible charges after it was sent to them.
An online petition found at www.change.org has demanded the firing of the officer involved in the shooting, alleging the officer’s response was heightened because of the breed of the dog.
“The officer not only used unnecessary force but did so in front of the family for no reason other than ignorance,” a letter posted on the petition states. “We will not tolerate this kind of brutality and ignorance from those who are called to serve and protect.”
The petition, which had 976 signatures at press time Tuesday, was posted by a woman named Elise Barrus. As of press time, attempts to reach Barrus, Brown and Gordon for comment were unsuccessful.
Kirby said the petition will have no effect on the outcome of the investigation, whether or not it gets its target 2,000 signatures.
“The investigation is independent of those kinds of things. What we’re looking for is facts. What we need for our investigation is people who saw something or know something,” Kirby said.
Even if the department did take stock in the petition, Kirby said, it wouldn’t have much of an effect, anyway — the officer involved had already given his two weeks’ notice to leave for a job outside of law enforcement. His last working day was the day after the incident, Kirby said.
“It was completely unrelated with anything to do with this. He left in good standing,” said Kirby. “I’m glad he ended without getting hurt.”