In 2010 and again in 2012, Commerce City police officers shot and killed dogs. The incidents were mired in controversy -- and a lawsuit is still pending in the latter, involving a dog named Chloe whose death helped inspire a bill signed into law last year that requires police to be trained in handling dog-related calls.
Now, two more dogs have been shot to death by Commerce City police, and the owner is pissed. See photos, video and more below.
According to 9News, two Commerce City officers were responding to a call when they saw a woman with a small dog near East 60th Avenue and Newport Street being attacked by two larger dogs -- one a Rottweiler, the other described as mixed breed.
After failing to separate the dogs, an officer used his firearm to shoot and kill the two attacking dogs.
At this stage of the investigation, Commerce City Police Department representatives say they have no indication that the officers on the scene did anything wrong. They add that the two cops have gone through the sort of dog-related training mandated in Senate Bill 13-226, the legislation noted earlier; we've included the document below.
Nonetheless, Elena Nunez, the dog's owner, remains "upset, angry," as she told 9News in a clip also shared here. (As you can see in the image above, Nunez asked that her face not be shown in the footage.) "There was no need for that," she added. "Why couldn't they use a Taser or something? Why couldn't they use mace? Why'd they have to shoot them?"
Similar questions were asked about the 2010 dog killing in Commerce City. Here's how that incident was described in a lawsuit filed by Wheat Ridge's Animal Law Center:
On February 3, 2010, Officer [Suzanne] Barber arrived at the Agazio family home to investigate an accidental 911 call made by the Plaintiff, Frank Agazio. Officer Barber entered the fenced yard with her gun drawn, according to a witness. Zoey, a 30 pound mixed breed dog with no history of aggressive or vicious behavior, began barking and approached Officer Barber. When Zoey was approximately 20 feet away from Barber, the officer shot and killed the animal. Immediately upon hearing the shot, Frank Agazio stepped outside of the home to investigate. Officer Barber then pointed her weapon at Agazio and ordered him to retreat.
Nonetheless, a CCPD release noted that that even though the incident was "portrayed poorly by the media," a jury "later determined the officers' actions were justified."
A similar scenario played out two years later.
As we've reported, Chloe, a therapy dog for local resident Gary Branson, 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 Robert Price, felt Chloe remained out of control and fired his weapon multiple times, shooting and killing her.
Prosecutors in Adams County subsequently charged Officer Price with animal cruelty. But despite the video evidence, which the thousands of folks on the still-active Justice for Chloe Facebook page see as irrefutable, Price was ultimately cleared of the charge.
That wasn't the end of the story, though. As in 2010, the Animal Law Center filed a lawsuit in Chloe's death. Speaking on the subject last November, attorney Jennifer Edwards told us that "justice was not gained with the criminal case. Mr. Branson would have been able to get restitution or some sort of level of justice had there been a guilty verdict. We were headed in the direction of a civil suit even before the not-guilty verdict was handed down, but that definitely sealed its fate."
At the same time, Edwards wasn't surprised that Price was exonerated by a jury, which had been given instructions regarding "choice of evils.... Basically, it meant that even if Officer Price was completely mistaken in his assumption that he was choosing the lesser of two evils" by shooting Chloe, "he could still be found not guilty. That was a very bad thing for the prosecution."
It's far too soon to know what course the latest investigation will take, or if the matter will generate criminal charges or lawsuits. But if they do, the choice-of-evils defense could come into play once more, despite the presence of the new officer-training law.
Look below to see a 9News report about yesterday's incident, a report by the station about the 2010 incident, raw video of Chloe's shooting and SB 13-226, known as the Dog Protection Act.
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Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Follow That Story archive circa November 2013: "Dog shooting update: Lawsuit filed against cop found not guilty, Commerce City."