In November, Commerce City Police Officer Robert Price shot and killed Chloe, a mixed breed dog, in an incident caught on video. After Price was charged with animal cruelty, a police group suggested that the accusations were fueled by a lynch-mob mentality. As Price made his first court appearance yesterday, the DA's office denied the charge. Look below to see details, documents and raw video of the shooting that started it all.
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.
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 3,600 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. The group's entire open letter is on view at the bottom of this post, but here's an excerpt:
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.
The implication? Quick and the 17th Judicial District DA's office, which serves Adams County, lowered the boom on Price to placate the howling masses. But Quick's successor and an office spokesman say nothing could be further from the truth.
Continue for more about Robert Price's court appearance, including photos, video and the police group open letter. In its letter, the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police called on officers to show up at Price's court hearing yesterday -- an initial advisement of charges -- in a silent show of support. But according to 9News, these plans came undone due to confusion that also impacted the press. Turns out the officers and the media were sent to the wrong courtroom, and by the time they found the correct one, the mostly pro forma session was just about over.
Afterward, Dave Young, the current 17th Judicial District DA, who took over for the aforementioned Don Quick in recent weeks, 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 maintains.
Assistant District Attorney Jess Redman, currently serving as the office's interim spokesman, echoes this assertion. While he can't comment directly about the facts of the Price prosecution, he says, "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."
During Price's hearing, which Redman characterizes as a "pretty standard appearance," the officer waived the formal advisement of charges. Afterward, a new court date was set for 2 p.m. on April 15. At that time, Price is likely to formally enter a plea unless the case has been resolved during the interim. If he pleads not guilty, a trial date will be set, likely within six months or so.
Meaning that the allegations against Price are likely to be a source of conversation for the better part of 2013.
Look below to see a 9News report about yesterday's hearing, footage of the November shooting, and the police group's letter.
Colorado Fraternal Order of Police open letter:
Show of Support for Wrongfully Accused Commerce City Officer
On Saturday November 24, 2012 three officers of the Commerce City Police Department responded to a loose vicious dog complaint. During the encounter, Officer Robert Price, a six year veteran of the Commerce City Police Department, was forced to shoot and kill the animal.
The incident was videotaped by a citizen and released to the Denver media. From there the video went viral and was broadcast in the national media, "YouTube" and other internet media forums. To the untrained eye, and without knowledge of the factual details or the circumstances involved, any use of force by law enforcement is not easy to watch and is often not understood by the general public. This was no different.
As a result of this video the officers' actions were vilified by an uninformed public. As is often the case there is a "lynch mob" mentality promulgated by those whose core beliefs cause them to pre-judge an incident to match their pre-determined outcome without having heard all the facts. Video is never the whole story, but for those who seek to place immediate blame, or need an outcome that matches their belief system, it is a convenient tool. Because of administrative restrictions involved in cases like this, the reasons dictating the officers' actions and other issues supporting the use of force have not been made public. The officers' side of this has yet to be heard. In time it will be, but suffice it to say they were acting within the scope of their authority and under department policy & procedure in accordance with city ordinance. They violated no law with their actions. They were simply doing their job.
On November 27th the Commerce City police chief stated that an initial review of the incident indicated the involved officers responded with appropriate force for the situation. We agree. However 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.
As a result on Thursday, December 20, 2012 District Attorney Don Quick advised the public that Officer Robert Price would be charged with one felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals. This decision received immediate praise by animal rights groups and other biased parties. The Fraternal Order of Police finds the charging of this officer outrageous, and not within the scope of the event. We have our opinion as to why the DA charged the officer. In light of the atmosphere surrounding this circus you can judge why for yourself.
The fact of the matter is that Officer Price now finds himself faced with a felony charge, which if convicted not only could result in a prison sentence, but will cost him his career. Colorado State law forbids anyone who has been convicted of a felony from being certified as a peace officer.
Officer Price is a member of Commerce City FOP Lodge 19, and to a person his brothers & sisters in the Lodge support him and the other two officers involved as does the Colorado State Lodge. It is our opinion these officers did nothing wrong and are unfortunate victims of a sensationalized media event. This matter never should have been referred to the DA's office by the department. The circumstances involved did not warrant that action. The DA's office should have sent it back to the department for administrative review as it did not meet any reasonable standard for a criminal investigation. None of that happened. It is obvious to us that the involved officials felt the media and public focus being brought to bear on their decisions regarding this matter, and as result found it easier to act in the manner they did rather than do the right thing in this case.
Lodge 19 has called for a show of support for Officer Robert Price. They have asked the State FOP to get the word out asking officers from other agencies to join them in displaying support for Officer Robert Price. At 08:00 AM, on January 22, 2013 there will be an arraignment hearing in this case for Officer Price at the Adams County Courthouse, located at 1100 Judicial Center Drive in Brighton. FOP Lodge 19 is asking for all off-duty officers from any agency who can attend this hearing to do so. You are asked to show up in suit and tie. There will be no rally. This will be a silent show of support. We are hoping to fill the courtroom and hallways with brother and sister officers. Please spread the word and try to attend.
More from our News archive: "Police group: Commerce City cop charged in dog shooting is victim of lynch mob mentality."