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Reprimand in dog shooting (for not turning on microphones, not for killing apartment complex canine)
Decatur Daily ^ | June 5, 2012 | Seth Burkett

Posted on 06/05/2012 12:40:01 PM PDT by Altariel

Decatur’s police chief said allegations of wrongdoing against two officers who fired as many as 13 shots during the Jan. 1 shooting and killing of a dog at Danville Park Apartments were “not sustained,” but the officers violated department policy by not activating their microphones.

“I don’t believe the department has sufficient evidence to charge the officers internally. That stops short of exonerating them,” Chief Ed Taylor said Monday.

Some residents of the apartment complex complained that the shooting, which sent at least one bullet through an apartment door, was unnecessary and put residents in danger.

“I think this is appalling, seeing what I saw firsthand as a direct witness,” said Patti Meadows, who said she called police Internal Affairs to complain following the incident. “They put others’ lives in danger. This was not an environment to pull guns out.”

Meadows said she was standing near the officers on an upstairs walkway when they opened fire. The boxer dog wasn’t being aggressive, she said.

Another witness, Hailey Brown, told The Daily she offered to put the dog back inside the apartment after officers opened the door and let it out.

Taylor issued officers Demetrius Hightower and Jarrod Birchfield written reprimands for not activating their audio and video equipment at the scene, a violation the chief said came to light during an internal investigation.

Cameras in their patrol cars would not have captured the incident, but recordings from the microphones carried by the officers “would have made resolution of this much easier,” Taylor said.

One officer said he forgot to activate his microphone and the other said he tried to activate his but it malfunctioned, Taylor said.

Taylor said the investigation was delayed by the retirement of internal affairs investigator Capt. Dwight Hale. Hale was replaced by Capt. Chris Mathews, formerly head of Patrol Division.

Hightower and Birchfield are required to attend one-on-one training with arms instructors on accounting for every round fired and having a safe backdrop when firing, Taylor said.

“I have a lot of concern about what happened there, and we want to do everything in our power not to put our citizens at risk and only as a last resort make the decision to destroy an animal,” the chief said.

But, he said, “I believe the officers, when they fired at the animal, were acting as they believed they had to.”

Police spokesman Lt. John Crouch said neither officer would be allowed to comment on the incident or investigation.

According to reports filed by the officers, Hightower and Birchfield were dispatched to Danville Park Apartments because of an altercation between brothers John and Kevin Haggamaker and some revelers at a New Year’s Eve party at about 2 a.m.

The officers detained Kevin Haggamaker, who was carrying a baseball bat at the time, and, having been told by the complainants that one of the men had a knife, went to Apartment 29, the residence of John Haggamaker, who was inside a neighbor’s apartment at the time. The Haggamakers, who were both taken to jail on misdemeanor charges following the incident, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Taylor said the officers were anticipating an encounter with an armed man when Hightower drew his Taser and Birchfield unholstered his service pistol.

Instead, they encountered Kevin Haggamaker’s 3-year-old, 80-pound boxer, Ace.

“We had conflicting statements from the different witnesses and the officers that were there,” Taylor said. “To the best of my understanding, the dog came out in an aggressive manner.”

Taylor said Hightower first tried using his Taser, but it halted the animal only briefly. The dog ran away when Birchfield fired his gun, but then charged the officers again, at which point both began firing their pistols.

The investigation found the officers fired as many as 13 shots — Hightower fired three and Birchfield fired nine or 10. Twelve spent bullet casings were recovered, but 13 rounds were missing from their guns, Taylor said.

Sgt. Keith Brown, the supervisor who examined the scene, believed the dog was struck five times, Taylor said.

“As best we can determine, each round was fired at a downward angle and struck the decking or the animal,” with the exception of one bullet, Taylor said.

That bullet was fired downward at close range by Birchfield and may or may not have struck the dog before passing through the closed door of Apartment 25, ricocheting off the floor and striking a piece of furniture, he said.

The resident of Apartment 25, asleep in her bedroom when the bullet went through her door, was unharmed.

Taylor said he consulted District Attorney Scott Anderson, but they were both of the opinion that shooting into a residence was not a crime if there was no criminal intent.

Anderson said Monday he would need to review his files before commenting.

Some of the bullets that struck the deck fragmented, and some fragments bounced through the open door of Apartment 29, Taylor said.

Two smaller dogs owned by John Haggamaker were in the apartment and followed Ace onto the walkway. A beagle mix, Roscoe, was injured, apparently when his paw was struck by a bullet.

Following the incident, all front-line officers, including Hightower and Birchfield, underwent training on how to determine if a dog is aggressive and an attack is imminent and if so, how to handle the situation, Taylor said. The Police Department also ordered six catch poles to use for animals.

“Now in this particular case, it is unlikely they would have had a catch pole with them, but there are other cases where they might be of value,” Taylor said.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Pets/Animals
KEYWORDS: dog; donutwatch; warondogs
Full Title:

Reprimand in dog shooting Decatur police officers cited for not turning on microphones, not for killing apartment complex canine

1 posted on 06/05/2012 12:40:09 PM PDT by Altariel
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To: Altariel

I’m sick of hearing about these dogs being shot. But I’ve been thinking about this. If I was a cop I’d be thinking that the best practice I could get for a shoot out with a bad guy would be to start shooting dogs that came at me.

2 posted on 06/05/2012 1:04:31 PM PDT by mamelukesabre
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To: Altariel
… underwent training on how to determine if a dog is aggressive …

Is the dog alive? Is the dog moving?
It’s aggressive!

3 posted on 06/05/2012 1:22:09 PM PDT by R. Scott (Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your Intelligence to buy a drink)
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To: Sidebar Moderator

Apologies for the double posting.

Would you mind adding the link to the story in the first post?,96763

Thank you.

4 posted on 06/05/2012 1:33:15 PM PDT by Altariel ("Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!")
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To: R. Scott

5 posted on 06/05/2012 1:35:01 PM PDT by Altariel ("Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!")
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To: Altariel

That’s about it.

6 posted on 06/05/2012 1:51:56 PM PDT by R. Scott (Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your Intelligence to buy a drink)
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