Officer Robert Price found not guilty in controversial dog shooting caught on video
In November 2012, Commerce City Officer Robert Price shot and killed a dog named Chloe in an incident caught on video. Afterward, Price was charged with animal cruelty in a move his supporters said was motivated by public pressure.
Nearly a year later, Price has been found not guilty. The decision was cheered by Commerce City but slammed on a Facebook page that had demanded justice for Chloe. Photos, videos and details below.
As we've reported, Chloe was being temporarily kept at a house in Commerce City when she snuck out of the garage. A neighbor, Kenny Collins, called the authorities and recorded law enforcers' actions on a cell-phone camera. The video he shot shows Chloe being tased by a policeman and snared on a catch pole by a community service officer -- the equivalent of animal control in Commerce City. But the policeman, subsequently identified as Price, felt Chloe remained out of control and fired his weapon multiple times, shooting and killing her.
Robert Price shielding his face from cameras during a break from this week's trial.
Most viewers of the video didn't see evidence that Chloe was a threat to the public, as the police maintained. As such, community outcry over the shooting was considerable at venues such as the Justice For Chloe Facebook page, which currently has more than 4,700 likes. Several weeks later, the Adams County District Attorney's Office filed an animal cruelty charge against Price. But while this move was cheered by many observers, it was denigrated by the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, which decried what it saw as a lynch-mob mentality fueled by the video. Here's an excerpt from its open letter:
Under public and political pressure the department suspended its administrative review and sent the matter to the Adams' County DA's office for review. We know that District Attorney Don Quick and his office were inundated with outside complaints about the incident from certain interested groups. In this caustic atmosphere his office found itself under the eye of the media on what had fast become a controversial politically sensitive event.
A portrait of Chloe.
Dave Young, the current 17th Judicial District DA, who took over for the aforementioned Don Quick, subsequently issued a statement in reply to the police group's implications about bowing to the public's will in the matter. "Our office makes decisions on the filing of criminal charges based upon thoughtful consideration of the evidence, not based upon outside influences or the status of the offender," he maintained.
Assistant District Attorney Jess Redman echoed this assertion in a January interview with Westword. While he couldn't comment directly about the facts of the Price prosecution, he said, "What I can tell you is, we handled this just as we handle every case. We're provided information from a law-enforcement agency or conduct our own investigation, and any filing is based on evidence. And we're going to let the evidence speak in a court of law."
In the end, though, the jury was not convinced.
Price's attorneys contended that their client had acted in defense of the community service officer, who was having difficulty controlling Chloe on the catch pole even after the animal had been tased. Their argument is that the dog was charging at her when Price opened fire.
The jury ultimately sided with Price -- and shortly after its verdict, Commerce City released the following statement:
"We thank the jury for a thoughtful conclusion to an emotionally charged event. Commerce City places the highest value on the safety and well-being of our community, our citizens and our employees. Our police department is committed to the vision of setting the standard of excellence for public safety and service in the region. Now that the verdict has been rendered, the chief of police will complete the administrative review, taking the appropriate next steps to positively move the department forward."
Even before the review's completion, however, Price, who's been on administrative leave, will return to duty.
Gary Branson, the dog's owner, was far less pleased by the trial's resolution. In a conversation with 7News, he shared his view that the incident could have been handled better and suggested that he will file a civil lawsuit against Price.
The reaction on the Justice for Chloe Facebook page was much less politic. A post-verdict timeline post reads:
There are times when I am embarrassed to be part of the human race. This is one of those times. Humans fail animals every single day and here again humans have failed Chloe. Here was the opportunity to hold an officer accountable for his out of control actions. Videos do NOT lie and the video clearly shows he was WRONG in his actions. It is because of the actions of some that the police as a whole are not respected, that they are feared and hated, and why the majority do not believe in justice. It has NEVER been about revenge but about holding Price and others like him accountable for their actions. For those that have criticized the motives of this page, the admins, and others like it let's see how you feel when it is YOUR pet that is murdered. Let's see if you will be so forgiving and critical then. Although I am deeply disappointed in the jury and our legal system this will only serve to strengthen my resolve and make me work all the harder for change. It WILL happen because we will NOT give up or give in. That I promise.
Look below to see the 7News report, followed by raw footage of the events that led to Chloe's death.