Dog shooting by deputy not his first: He claims self-defense in border-collie-mix killing
Update: Monday's shooting of border-collie mix named Ziggy by an Adams County deputy -- see our previous coverage below -- continues to spin off new developments. The latest? An attorney for deputy Wilfred Europe insists that his client shot the dog in self-defense, and denies that Europe and his fellow officers were responding to the wrong address. However, he confirms that Europe had previously shot another dog while on duty.
Once again, this information comes to us from CBS4's Brian Maass, who's leading the pack on this story. He was the first to identify the shooter of Ziggy as Europe, and also revealed that the deputy had shot and killed forty-year-old Don Cambron during a traffic stop last year. Europe was cleared of any wrongdoing in that incident, even though the weapon Cambron is said to have been reaching for after being pulled over was a pellet gun.
This time around, Maass's source is lawyer Donald Sisson, whose services Europe has retained. Sisson confirms that Europe previously shot a dog in the line of duty, but beyond noting that the animal survived the wound and the deputy wasn't disciplined for his actions, he declines to provide additional information.
However, Sisson shares Europe's account of Ziggy's shooting -- and the tale has little relation to the one related to us by attorney Jennifer Edwards, speaking for the dog's owner, Jeff Fisher.
Edwards says Europe and other deputies burst into Fisher's business after responding to an alarm at an address almost a block away. As Fisher was ordered to the floor at gunpoint, she goes on, Ziggy scooted outside, but was returning in response to Fisher's calls when he was shot to death by Europe.
Not so, Sisson allows. He says the alarm originated from the same multi-business complex that housed Fisher's operation, and deputies were in the midst of searching the entire thing. He also maintains that Ziggy charged at Europe, barking, growling and snapping his teeth, and continued to pursue him as he backpedaled approximately 25 feet. Fearing he was going to be bitten, he fired twice -- not the three times mentioned by Edwards -- and killed Ziggy.
Look below to see another CBS4 report about the shooting's aftermath -- this one focusing on members of the public attacking Europe's actions on the Adams County Sheriff's Office Facebook page. Note that at this writing, most of those featured in the report are gone, replaced by several criticizing the ACSO for deleting critical comments. That's followed by our previous coverage.
Continue to read more of our coverage about this story, including photos and videos.
Update, 7:14 a.m. January 17: Yesterday, we told you about the death of Ziggy, a dog killed by an Adams County deputy after he and fellow officers responded to an alarm at the wrong address; see previous coverage below. Now, information is emerging about the man who pulled the trigger, identified as Wilfred A. Europe III. Turns out he killed a man in a traffic stop last year -- an act for which he was cleared of wrongdoing -- and has several minor dog violations on his record.
The scoop was scored by CBS4's Brian Maass, who notes that in February 2012, Europe shot and killed Don Cambron, forty, after the latter was seen reaching for a weapon after being pulled over.
The weapon in question was later discovered to be a pellet gun, but a critical incident team investigating the incident determined that Europe's actions were justified, and the district attorney declined to file any criminal charges against him.
CBS4 also points out that in 2003 and 2004, Europe was cited for several dog-related violations. A count related to having an unlicensed animal was eventually dismissed, but he was found guilty of disobeying a leash law.
Hard to miss the irony of the latter given what took place on Monday night. According to Jennifer Edwards, an attorney for the Animal Law Center, Jeff Fisher, who runs a commercial-door business, was working late when Adams County deputies appeared on his property, guns drawn. As they ordered Fisher to the floor, Ziggy, an eight-year-old blue heeler/border collie, zipped out the open door. Fisher called to the dog, and he believed the animal was returning when a deputy outside, identified by multiple sources cited by CBS4 as Europe, shot him three times. He died as a result of his wounds.
At this point, Adams County representatives have said an investigation into the shooting is ongoing but are otherwise declining to comment about the case -- and Europe didn't respond to interview requests from CBS4. However, the station found a photo on his Facebook page of a sign promising that trespassers will be shot, and survivors will be shot again. Here's that image.
Look below to see the CBS4 report, followed by our previous coverage.
Continue for our previous coverage of the incidents that led to Ziggy's death.
Original post, 12:07 p.m. January 16: In recent weeks, two cases in which animals were killed by members of law enforcement under controversial circumstances have made headlines. Now, add a third -- an eight-year-old blue heeler/border-collie mix named Ziggy shot to death after Adams County deputies arrived at the wrong address. An attorney representing Ziggy's owner is talking lawsuit in the matter and cites what she sees as an example of harassment that took place earlier today.
The Animal Law Center's Jennifer Edwards describes what happened around 8 p.m. Monday near the intersection of 54th and Tennyson.
"My client, Jeff Fisher, was working late," she says. "He owns a commercial-door business and he had Ziggy with him, as he always did. Then he felt a breeze coming through the door, which was strange, because he knew the security gate was locked. He got up to close the door, but when he started to do it, an officer forced his way in and put him at gunpoint."
Fisher "immediately dropped to the ground," she goes on, "and as he did, Ziggy slipped through the door. Jeff called out to him a couple of times, and on the second time, Ziggy started back -- and as soon as he did that, another officer outside pulled his weapon and shot Ziggy without any reason at all. Ziggy dropped after the first hit, so I'm not sure why he would have shot round two and round three."
This action shocked Fisher, Edwards notes. "He was distraught, sobbing, upset." But rather than offering any reassuring words, she quotes one of the officers as saying, "Tell him to calm down. He can get another dog."
In addition, Fisher was not allowed to "go to the dog and render any care, see if he was breathing, get him to a vet," Edwards allows. "They told him to sit still, said he wasn't allowed to move or make any phone calls."
When Fisher was granted permission to check on Ziggy (he's unsure about how much time had passed, but feels it could have been twenty or thirty minutes), the dog was dead.
The kicker? The deputies were at the wrong address. "They were responding to an alarm going off a whole street block away," Edwards says. "They didn't even have a reason to be there. They busted in the door, came in unannounced, shot his dog, didn't apologize -- and they're not even at the right place."
Moreover, Edwards points out that "they took Ziggy's body, and we don't know where."
Continue for more about the shooting of Ziggy, including a video.
The location of Ziggy's remains is important not just from an emotional standpoint, but also an evidentiary one. Edwards believes a necropsy will show that Ziggy was not close enough or in an aggressive stance that might have caused a threat to the deputies -- not that he was large enough to do much damage under any circumstances.
"That kind of dog is usually around thirty pounds, but he was probably closer to 35 -- he had a few extra pounds on him," she says. "But he was a little dog, or a medium-size dog at best -- a herding dog who was probably just curious. And he wasn't even facing the officer when he was shot. The blood on Ziggy's nose was consistent with him being on the way back to the door."
The next morning, Fisher contacted the Animal Law Center, and Edwards advised him to go to the sheriff's office and file a complaint -- an action she hoped would prevent destruction of evidence in the incident. However, she says he was told that unless he made a statement and consented to being interrogated, he wouldn't be allowed to do so.
That afternoon, the story broke in the media. But Edwards says the increased scrutiny doesn't appear to have led to her client being treated with kid gloves. In her words, Fisher "called me this morning. He was kind of whispering into the phone, and he said, 'The police are surrounding my house.' They'd gone to his landlord, asked for the key to the security gate, came into the yard area unannounced and were banging on the door, saying they needed to get a statement from him."
At that point, Fisher asked Edwards what he should do. She advised him to tell the deputies that he'd be happy to provide a statement at a future time in another location, but he wanted to have his attorney present.
When asked if it's premature to be talking about a lawsuit over Ziggy's death and the county's actions, Edwards replies, "Heck no, it's not premature. The writing is on the wall. The county handled this poorly. The officers unjustifiably shot a little dog who's a member of my client's family. So what comes is what comes, and that may very well be a civil lawsuit."
In the meantime, Edwards puts the latest animal death in the context of the two news-making ones that preceded it. First came the November shooting of Chloe, a mixed-breed dog, for which a Commerce City police officer has been formally charged; the Animal Law Center represents Chloe's owner. That was followed by the New Year's Day killing of a neighborhood elk in Boulder, with one of the two officers suspended over the incident reportedly a taxidermist on the side.
"I think the people of Colorado should be absolutely outraged," Edwards says. "In a matter of a month and a half, there have three wrongful police shootings. It should create a little bit of fear for people that those who are there to serve and protect are people we should be a little fearful of in the way they handle our animals."
An Adams County Sheriff's Office representative who spoke to 9News says an investigation of the incident is underway. Otherwise, the department is reserving comment at this time.
Look below to see a 9News piece about the shooting, featuring an interview with Fisher.
More from our News archive: "Officer Robert Price faces animal cruelty felony charges for shooting Chloe the dog."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.