WATCH ABOVE: Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank on why a police officer was cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting death of a Utah man’s dog.
TORONTO – A police officer who shot a man’s dog in the head while conducting a missing child investigation has been cleared of wrongdoing by two separate reviews of the June incident.
A confrontation with police immediately after the dog’s death was captured in an emotional video and posted to YouTube by dog owner Sean Kendall, visibly distraught by the loss of his pet, Geist.
“About 15 minutes ago, I got a phone call from Utah Animal Control calling to tell me that an officer had shot and killed my dog,” Kendall said in the video, taken June 18. “He was inside the backyard in a fenced-off area. What was the cause for an officer to shoot and kill my dog?”
Watch below: Emotional confrontation after police shoot owner’s dog in yard. Warning: Explicit language used, discretion is advised.
The Salt Lake City (SLC) Police Department’s internal review, as well as an independent Civilian Review Board “found the subject officer reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself from a dangerous animal,” according to a police statement released August 1.
SLC Police Chief Chris Burbank told reporters that Detective Brett Olsen, an officer with 13 years experience on the force, knocked on Kendall’s door, received no answer, and then entered the backyard. Burbank said this was appropriate under the Community Caretaker Standard, as well as in the circumstances in a missing or abducted child investigation.
“We have an obligation. Imagine what the outcry would be if in fact the child was in that yard—injured…abducted? Or just missing there in that yard and we did nothing?”
The chief added that the dog charged at Olsen, and was within three feet of the officer when he responded with his gun.
“This was an unfortunate circumstance in which an officer was doing exactly what we, in the public, require of them, and an animal who is doing what—by instinct, believes appropriate. We are, as the police department, very sorry for the circumstance. It is never our intent to cause harm or injury to anyone or anything.”
Burbank said within a couple of days of Geist’s death, police representatives met with Kendall and offered to pay for the cost of Geist and his burial. He said that offer was rejected.
On his “Justice for Geist” Facebook page, Kendall posted Thursday that he did not accept the settlement he was offered, and wrote a longer post on Friday.
“When police are allowed to be judge, jury, and executioner there is little surprise that Brett Olson (sic) has been allowed to get away with trespassing, discharging a firearm in a residential area, endangering the community, and destroying private property.
“This investigation was to examine the use of lethal force but did not include any investigation into his decision to illegally trespass on private property. When Brett Olson (sic) opened my gate he violated my constitutionally protected right to privacy and he then illegally seized Geist,” wrote Kendall.
Burbank said Olsen responded appropriately and was within police policy when he entered the yard and discharged his firearm.
“You cannot say an officer will not or cannot deploy whatever means necessary to protect themselves or another,” he said.
However, the Civilian Review Board found Olsen did not have training specific to use-of-force incidents with dogs. Burbank said this would be an area SLC police would improve.
“We are revamping and adding a two-hour block to our training curriculum for new recruits in how to deal with [incidents with dogs] which will expand out to police officers,” he said.
Burbank said there have been “hateful” threats and harassment of police officers since the incident, and called for the public to direct any concerns to him instead of individual officers.
“I am responsible for the police officers and in this circumstance, Officer Olsen’s actions were appropriate and justified by me.”
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