Investigation is underway after Regina police officer shoots dog

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An investigation is underway after a Regina police officer shot a family dog in an open field in the Rambler Park on Wednesday – Aug 16, 2018

An investigation is underway after a Regina police officer shot a family dog in an open field in the Rambler Park on Wednesday.

Two officers from the Regina Police Service Canine Unit were preparing for a canine training session shortly after 12:00 p.m. when officers noticed a vehicle approaching.

Lance Murphy says the open area behind the baseball diamonds is “the same park I’ve been taking [my dogs] all summer for the past few years to run and play with their balls.”

In a statement emailed to Global News, Murphy describes driving past the police exercise before letting his dogs out of his car.

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“The officer I passed never waved me down, or honked his horn or did anything to get my attention; we even made eye contact, but nothing,” Murphy wrote.

“I parked my vehicle, got out, and opened my hatch where I let my dogs jump out and I proceeded to play with them and threw the ball a few times for them,” he continued.

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It was at that point an officer – without his canine – approached Murphy and his dogs.

“My understanding is that the officer did tell the owner that this was not the off-leash park and that he did need to get his dogs on a leash, something to that effect,” Regina Police Service Superintendent Corey Zaharuk told reporters Thursday.

Murphy insists there was no communication from the officer, writing “he didn’t wave at me, didn’t shout at me, he was just walking through the field approaching my dogs and myself.”

What happened next is unclear. Murphy describes his dog Missty approaching the officer with a ball in her mouth, but police have a different version.

“As the dogs ran towards [the officer] the owner called for them to return to him, but the dogs weren’t listening. The officer began sensing very troubling behavior from one of the dogs who appeared to him to be assuming an aggressive posture and circling him,” Zaharuk said.
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“The officer felt that the dog’s actions were consistent with preparing to attack him. [He] perceived the dog’s actions escalating to a point where he feared he would be seriously injured,” he continued.

It was at that point the officer fired two shots, one into the dog’s shoulder, through its chest cavity, and out the other shoulder.

“I immediately started yelling ‘don’t shoot my dog, stop shooting my dog,’” Murphy said. “He fired off two rounds at her at least, and it wasn’t immediately back-to-back, he had a pause in the shots.”

“Missty was so scared, she ran back to the vehicle and I had to get in between him and her so he wouldn’t shoot her again.”

Murphy says he retrieved both dogs and left the area after some resistance from the officer.

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“I was so shaky, crying and sitting on the ground beside my vehicle begging him to let me go. I even mentioned to him I was disabled and that my dog was dying. He wasn’t going to let me go anywhere,” Murphy said.

“I had to tell him that I’m going to the media if you don’t let me leave. It was then and only I was allowed to go.”

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Zaharuk says his investigation has lead him to believe the time between the shooting and Murphy leaving was “within minutes.”

“I have been in a lot of dramatic situations myself as a police officer. When tensions are high 20 seconds can seem like an eternity. I’m not saying it was a couple minutes, but my belief right now is that it was a very brief period of time before the dog owner was on his way,” Zaharuk noted.

The dog was treated at the Animal Hospital of Regina and has since been released into her owner’s care.

According to Murphy another surgery is scheduled for Saturday, and veterinarians fear the dog may have suffered nerve damage; something that may force them to amputate one of her legs.

RPS is conducting an investigation into this incident and say they have been in continuous contact with the owner, but note that “understandably, he was very distraught so we haven’t been able to talk to him in the full manner that we would like.”

Anytime an officer discharges a firearm, a full investigation is conducted and was launched immediately.

Zaharuk noted if the officer fears death or grievous bodily harm, use of a firearm is generally an appropriate use of force.

Once the investigation is complete, it will be submitted to the Use of Force board; which will review and determine recommendations on what to do next.

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The investigative package will also be forwarded to the Saskatchewan Police Commission for review.

Animal Control will also be involved in the investigation, including looking at whether or not the dog is a danger to the community.

“As part of our investigation we have made contact with Animal Control and the Regina Humane Society, and [we] are considering what the next steps might be to provide the objective assessment of the dog,” Zaharuk said.

According to Zaharuk this is the first time the officer involved has shot a dog, and he doesn’t believe it was the officer’s intention to do so.

“He’s been around dogs his entire career. I don’t think he foresaw this happening until moments before this happened; but such is the case for police officers having to make split second decisions,” Zaharuk said.

When asked why the officer didn’t resort to using other uses of force, like a Taser, Zaharuk said that would be a key part of their investigation, but did offer one potential explanation.

“Generally speaking, there are problems in using the Taser because the probes tend to generate in quite a distance, and it just may not have been a suitable use of force options given what the officer perceived the danger was from the dog,” he noted.

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With files from Jonathan Guignard

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