Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Two more. First, from Indiana:

An Elkhart County police officer shot a dog to death early Saturday afternoon. He claims the animal was charging at him, but the owner says that’s not the case.

Police went to the house in the 14000 block of County Road 36 to investigate a minor traffic incident that occurred earlier in the day. But before the officer got to the door, he shot and killed the family pet.

At the quiet country home east of Goshen, you can seldom hear anything but the wind blowing through the trees. But that peace and quiet was shattered by the bullet from the gun of an Elkhart County sheriff’s deputy.

The aftermath was caught on a cellphone video. You can hear a friend of the dog owner asking why the dog was shot and the police officer replying that the dog had attacked him. The officer then asks if he should leave and the homeowner tells him yes.

“It’s a family member and to just see something like that is something you’re just not going to forget,” said the owner of the dog, Josh Bender, “My dog’s name was Charlie. He was a red heeler lab mix dog. He was a pretty cool little guy. He loved to play fetch. He was always playing fetch, always.”

Bender watched as Charlie died from a gunshot. Only minutes earlier he was sitting down to eat lunch when he heard his two dogs barking in his driveway. His wife told him a police officer was pulling up. But before Josh could walk outside, Charlie had been shot.

“I was just getting ready to come out the door and I heard a pop,” Bender said, “I looked out the door and saw my dog flailing around here with blood everywhere and a police officer standing there with a look on his face like ‘what did I do?'”

And from Austin, Texas:

The fatal shooting of a pet dog by an Austin Police Department officer over the weekend is sparking outrage near and far.

As of Monday evening, close to 22,000 people had hit the “Like” button on a Facebook page called “Justice for Cisco,” the name of  Austinite Michael Paxton’s dog, which was killed by an officer.

On Saturday afternoon, a passerby called 911 around 4:30 to report a domestic disturbance.

What the responding officer, APD Officer Thomas Griffin, didn’t know when he arrived minutes later is that the 911 caller mistakenly gave the wrong address.

Upon arrival, the first person Officer Griffin encountered was Michael Paxton and his blue heeler, named Cisco.

Austin police confirmed Monday that Officer Griffin got out of his patrol car with his weapon drawn.

In audio captured on Officer Griffin’s dashboard camera, you can hear the officer give Paxton commands to put his hands up and to control his dog. Austin police removed a few seconds of the tape where Griffin fatally shoots the dog.

“Why didn’t you get your dog when I told you to get your dog?” questioned Officer Griffin.

I didn’t know! You just came around the corner and told me to put my hands up. What am I supposed to do?” replied Paxton.

Good question. A spokesman said the Austin Police Department doesn’t have a policy when it comes to shooting dogs. Which is precisely the problem. Also, how in the world do they get away with removing the audio of the actual shooting?

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54 Responses to “Puppycide”

  1. #1 |  fwb | 

    Cops are pussies. Everyone of them is scared to death. When my old man was a cop, he would NEVER have shot a dog. He didn’t have to because my old man was always in control of the situation. His presence was enough. AND he was never afraid.

    Cops don’t seem to know that their job is to die FOR us if necessary.

    Freaking pussies.

  2. #2 |  Juice | 



  3. #3 |  Nick | 

    “you can hear the officer give Paxton commands to put his hands up and to control his dog.”

    Those are two contradictory commands. How are you supposed to control your dog if your hands are up?

  4. #4 |  cjdavis | 

    I’m curious, how often are police officers actually injured by people’s dogs?

  5. #5 |  Abe Pafford | 

    What Nick said. If the guy kept his hands on the leash, he probably would have been shot himself.

  6. #6 |  Burgers Allday | 

    At least it was one officer giving serial orders that could, at least in theory, be complied with in seriatim. the usual trick is that one officer yells “git on tha groun'” and the other one yells “hands up above yer hed” at the same time. Now THAT is a difficult set of orders to simultaneously follow.

  7. #7 |  Burgers Allday | 

    I didn’t know Abe Pafford commented here. Thank you for your good work on that big case, Mr. Pafford!!

  8. #8 |  Swampy | 

    I’m hoping the Austin shooting will bring a policy change here in Texas and hopefully elsewhere. I’m also hoping that APD reaches out to USPS and
    Utility companies to see how they train their employees to handle situations with dogs.

  9. #9 |  William Kern | 

    I can imagine the respons this kind of story would get if it made it to the PoliceOne message boards: “Next time, buy a cat.”

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Also, how in the world do they get away with removing the audio of the actual shooting?

    I’ll take a stab at that. How about standard departmental policy?

    To cops, there’s good evidence and bad evidence. They feel they are doing a public service when they eliminate the confusing bad evidence.

  11. #11 |  NL_ | 

    There’s something messed up about your view of canine behavior when “friendly and sociable” is to you indistinguishable from “violent and territorial.”

  12. #12 |  Sondra Sondregger | 

    I live in Austin and have read your blog on and off for several years. 2+ years ago, after reading of a white boxer like my own being brutalized by a police officer with a taser, I tried to set up a meeting with the APD police chief, Art Acevedo. Austin is a very dog friendly city, and I wanted to discuss what training his officers receive on reading canine body language and behavior. My call was shuffled from one disinterested person to another, about 6 times, until I ended up in a voice mailbox. I left a message, to which I got no response. I repeated this process several days later, to the same end. I didn’t want Austin to end up in your blog over a dog shooting and I did what I could to make sure that it didn’t.

    Given the cavalier manner with which they treated my requests, I have to believe that it wasn’t and isn’t important to Acevedo and his force. A friend of mine who lives downtown near the location where Cisco was shot had recently met the officer, Thomas Griffin, that fired the shot, and he said that that Griffin expressed an obvious disdain for and fear of his dogs when Griffin’s partner leaned down to pet my friend’s dogs. This guy was a dog shooting waiting to happen. I think it’s time that I starting making calls again, but this time, I won’t let up until I hear from someone’s mouth that plans are underway to train officers to deal with dogs. If anyone, cop or not, shot my dog, I would end up in handcuffs and thrown under a jail.

  13. #13 |  35-year lawyer | 

    Most people who want to be a police officer, shouldn’t be allowed to be one. The job attracts people with all the wrong personality traits.

    I say that after numerous terms on a police civil service commission.

  14. #14 |  Charlie O | 

    More coward cops. How is that mail carriers all over the US deliver mail to millions and millions of homes day after day and yet, I don’t read a fusillade of stories about mail carriers being mauled to death or of mail carriers “HAVING” to kill their customers dog.

  15. #15 |  Mario | 

    Well, thank goodness this dog was shot. Now the mailman can finally deliver the mail to this house. I wonder for how long that just wasn’t possible with that man-eater in the driveway.

  16. #16 |  croaker | 

    I’d like to see a national law.

    Whenever a cop clears leather, be it gun or TASER, blood is drawn from said cop immediately afterwards for BAC, toxicology, and steroids. All in the interest of protecting the “officer” from specious charges, of course.

    That should make these thugs think twice about shooting things that don’t need to be shot.

  17. #17 |  Medicine Man | 

    Sorry, off-topic, but apparently libertarians are un-American: http://torgersonforcongress.blogspot.ca/2012/04/republican-5th-congressional-district.html

    I thought the part about the guy wearing a flag was particularly funny.

  18. #18 |  Mike T | 

    Also, how in the world do they get away with removing the audio of the actual shooting?

    Because only state-appointed prosecutors can bring criminal charges. Next question…

  19. #19 |  Alex | 

    Put your hands up and restrain your dog!

  20. #20 |  LadyMaybe | 


    We need to get this FREE MANUAL in policy makers hands here in Austin. It is a very dog friendly city. Tons of domesticated dogs. Police officers have absolutely no right to lethally wound an animal based on fear that the dog MIGHT attack them. They first must give the owner trust that they can control their animal, and if then the owner refuses, they must assess the situation. A dog barking is not means to kill them. This officer needs to moved to a different rotation if he can’t handle day to day domestic call instances where dogs are present, but more importantly, it should be MANDATORY TRAINING AND POLICY that all police officers know how to handle domesticated animals.

    That is common sense. This manual that was posted by Forbes last year talks all about how to read body language of animals and the best way to handle certain situations. How is this not common in every single police department?

    Time to call attention to these things. I wonder if he had controlled his dog instead of putting his hands up…. would he have been lethally wounded?

    I do not want to live in a city where this kind of fear exists. Fear of being shot for doing nothing but playing with your dog in the backyard, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Absolutely unbelievable.


  21. #21 |  nigmalg | 

    Medicine Man,

    I now have serious visual issues after attempting to read that website.

    From what I was able to make out, the guy is just confused about the origins of our government and it’s role. He feels that sending soldiers kicking their way into a residential home to stop people from “the pot smoking” was perfectly acceptable by Jefferson and “General George Washington”.

    Libertarians also kill babies, allow gay people to live in peace, and believe in due process. God fearing Republicans are supposed to be about homosexual oppression, wars, and terrorist killing gat dang it.

    Why yes, I’ll be distancing myself from this level of crazy.

  22. #22 |  The Late Andy Rooney | 


    You can tell things have gotten bad WRT puppycide when posters on a Libertarian blog are touting the United States Postal Service as an example to follow!

  23. #23 |  Deoxy | 

    At some point, people will start shooting cops for the same reasons cops currently shoot dogs – “he was menacing”, etc. At least, that’s the direction things are going… bloody well hope it stops before it gets there.

  24. #24 |  Mario | 

    I love how in the first story, and this isn’t the only time I’ve read about a scenario like this or seen a video, the cop pulls into the driveway, the dog is on the driveway, where the dog has every right to be, the cop steps out onto the driveway—and this is no emergency call, by the way—and the cop then shoots the dog.

    The cop went to investigate a minor traffic incident. Suppose it was an insurance adjuster instead of a cop, would the insurance adjuster have been unable to manage without shooting the dog? Would he have had to have gone back to the office and said, “Sorry, can’t do my job”?

    What would an insurance adjuster—or any normal person—do in a situation like that? I’m sure he would have sat in the car and beeped his horn, or he would have taken out his cell phone and called the home owner. Did the cop arrive without a phone number to call? Shame on him.

    In the course of a normal day of doing business, there is no presumptive right to be on another person’s property—you’re a guest. Conducting an investigation for a minor traffic accident is not a life or death situation demanding that the cop “act.” Damn! I’m thinking of another incident that happened a while ago where a cop went to someone’s property to ask for directions and ended up shooting the guy’s dog. I’m sorry, but when I read about things like this, I cannot help but have some very un-Christian wishes towards cops like this. As the saying goes, if they were on fire, I wouldn’t trouble myself to piss on them to put the flames out.

  25. #25 |  Steve Verdon | 

    When police tamper with evidence it is okay.

    Really Radley haven’t you learned by now there is no such thing as a good cop?


    I’m going to take a wild guess: very, very rarely. Like 1 in 1,000 cases or even more infrequently.

    Burgers Allday,

    At least it was one officer giving serial orders that could, at least in theory, be complied with in seriatim.

    You clearly don’t own a dog do you? Here is a hint, if you are going to control your dog, it isn’t something you do and it stays done unless you have someplace to put the dog. Duh.

    Further, the order of commands does not work either. Put up your hands, control your dog. Which one officer, they can’t be done simultaneously or serially (if I’m to control my dog, I’ll have to take my hands down).

  26. #26 |  JSL | 

    Mario’s first case is likely this one that Radley posted in ’08:


  27. #27 |  Bob Mc | 

    “Austin police confirmed Monday that Officer Griffin got out of his patrol car with his weapon drawn”.

    When I was a kid, my numerous (NYC) police relatives would all tell me that, in real life, most officers would go their entire career without taking their gun out of it’s holster (except at the range). Only on TV was police gun play a daily occurrence.

    Nowadays, it seems every cop draws his weapon multiple times per day. This guy had his gun out before he even knew what (if anything) was going on? WTF?

  28. #28 |  Bob Mc | 

    “As he tried to back up to his car, he claims one of the dogs charged – that’s when he shot it”

    WTF? He was IN HIS CAR and he thought the dog was going to bite him? How can a dog bite someone through the car?

  29. #29 |  Mario | 

    There needs to be a sensor in their holster, and every time they draw their gun, that event is recorded. Then, at the end of their shift, they can explain their action—in a permanently recorded, written record. Then, we ought to keep statistics, comparing each officer to the others, and each department to other departments across the nation. And then, we all ought to talk about what’s going on.

    Some of these guys are more like cowboys than cops. They’re hopped up on what they see on television, what they’re force fed in the training they receive for the “war out there,” and—most disturbingly—some of them are hopped up on the juice they’re taking to pack on the muscle.

  30. #30 |  Mario | 

    JSL @ #26

    Yes, that’s the incident I was thinking about.

  31. #31 |  Puppycide post on Radley Balko’s blog « police4aqi | 

    […] Puppycide, two anecdotes.  Drip, drip, drip. […]

  32. #32 |  Bob Mc | 

    #28 | Bob Mc | April 17th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Responding to my own post:

    OK, I misread the article, “he tried TO back up to his car” means he was obviously already out, my bad.

    Still, he saw the dogs he should have just stayed in his car and called the homeowner to come to him.

  33. #33 |  SP | 

    @16 re: National law requiring post weapon drawn/use testing for illicit substances.

    I absolutely agree with this type of law. I will write my representatives in Congress about this type of legislation and see to have the policy tied to federal dollars that flow to all police departments. This will assure a mechanism for compliance. We all know how federal highway funds and educational dictates work – strings attached federal dollars.

  34. #34 |  Resistance | 

    The first story is particularly infuriating for the reasons pointed out in Post #24 above.


  35. #35 |  Onlooker | 

    Yes, cowards is what these assholes are. And arrogant beyond belief.

  36. #36 |  Dan | 

    Some cops seem like they enjoy killing dogs;it gives them an excuse to use their sidearms. Mr. Bender said this cop looked like “My God what did I just do?” If that’s true then it was likely not a justified shooting, but I’m sure nothing will be done. Maybe Bender will get a settlement but that’s cold comfort after losing a great dog in such a vicious manner.

  37. #37 |  Brandon | 

    I’m kinda surprised that the ITG’s from the thread about the guy mowing his lawn and murdering the dog from a few weeks ago aren’t here to give these cops their kudos yet.

  38. #38 |  Jack McCauley | 

    Austin Chief of Police calls 93.7 KLBJ morning show to directly apologize to the dog owner. Not totally enthused with the DJs’ reactions and the apology three days later after a ton of media scrutiny is a little late, but at least it’s a start. I’d just like the incident to end up being a wakeup call so that it doesn’t happen again in Austin.


    April 17, 2012 Pt 2, about halfway through.

  39. #39 |  Linda | 

    Austin puppycide- The audacity of that police officer to shout “WHY DIDN’T YOU GET YOUR DOG!!!!!!” I so hope this guy gets a lawyer.

  40. #40 |  BamBam | 

    @28, haven’t you seen the movie Cujo? They’re coming right for us! Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

  41. #41 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Both officers should be immediately suspended without pay. The absolute last thing a TRAINED officer should do is to draw and fire their weapon. The possibility of hitting innocents is markedly reduced if the weapon is never fired. Time was if you discharged your weapon it would take a week to fill out the paper work. All I can say is WTF!

  42. #42 |  Linda | 

    #36 Dan, it is not always their sidearm they get a chance to use. A Des Moines, Washington police officer shot a Newfoundland Dog with a Colt M4 rifle. (four shots) When I learned of Rosie’s horrific execution I had to do an internet search to see what they were talking about. I could NOT believe the picture of the gun that came up. Something I would imagine soldiers using in wars, NOT police officers using during a loose dog call.

  43. #43 |  Personanongrata | 

    I’m I to believe postmen are made of steel and police officers are timid little creatures.

    Or, perhaps those law enforcement “professionals” resorting to firing off their six-shooters in wild west fashion are nothing short of depraved adrenaline junkies getting their rocks off killing someones pet.

  44. #44 |  Bill Poser | 

    We need a publicity campaign with slogans along the lines of “cops who shoot puppies are pussies”.

  45. #45 |  Not Sure | 

    This shit makes my blood boil. My dog is afraid of small children for God’s sake, but if you walk up to the door, she’ll bark at you. It’s what dogs do.

    I guess if you keep hearing (and you keep telling yourself) that you’re putting your life on the line every day, eventually you’re going to find a reason to try to prove to yourself that it’s so.

  46. #46 |  Maria | 

    @24 That’s what i always end up thinking in these cases. In fact the Elkhart county case seems to have been an actual situation of a dog acting aggressive to an uninvited, and likely dominant, stranger on their territory. But so fricken’ what? Cop, you’re not expected, you’re not invited. Wait in your car.

    It’s so odd to me. The reactions of these officers. It’s not a reaction any normal person would have! I myself have gone door to door canvasing for a charity event and never in my mind would I think of getting out of my car until I confirmed that the owner was present and in control of their dog(s) and then gave me a sign that I was WELCOME. Delivery drivers are trained better to handle dogs then cops are. Maybe because the driver knows he doesn’t get to shoot the dog if he misjudges the situation?

    Normal people do not assume they have the right to roam freely on another person’s property; even in the course of doing business! Why do cops assume they can go anywhere and do anything they please at any time? (I know. I know. Rhetorical question.) *sigh*

  47. #47 |  Not Sure | 

    “Why do cops assume they can go anywhere and do anything they please at any time?”

    How often do they suffer any negative consequences for doing so?

    (Another rhetorical question.)

  48. #48 |  Graduate Student | 

    Why don’t we just disarm the police? I mean, that’d be the easiest way to make all of us safer.

  49. #49 |  Frank Stein | 

    If there is a silver lining, which I admit is difficult to see when the topic is cowardly pigs shooting pets, it is that the way the Austin shooting aftermath is being handled is showing how these incidents should be treated – using the internet, Facebook groups etc, to garner a large and sustained call to action (and demanding accountability). If the mayor’s office and pig central are bombarded with calls and letters until something is done, then eventually something will be done. Not because they will realize that what happened was wrong (that would require a human-like sense of compassion), but because they would tire of being bothered. And eventually the pigs will adjust their behavior, realizing that their superiors will give them a hard time for getting a hard on by shooting a dog. They will have to get their power lust satisfied elsewhere, probably by beating up their wives and kids.

  50. #50 |  Goober | 

    I am a project manager for a very large construction company. My company has a policy that if you are involved in an accident or incident while on company time, that you are required to immediately submit to a drug and alcohol test.

    We’ve found that in a good portion of incidents, the person responsible was under the influence of some sort of drug or alcohol. While I am very anti-prohibition, I think that even the most libertarian of us can agree that being under the influence while operating and working around heavy machinery is a very bad idea.

    I am writing this in response to the previous poster who suggested just such a policy for police officers when THEY are involved in an accident or incident. I think that is a great idea, and I think that we will all find that in a very good portion of these incidents, that drugs and/or alcohol will be found to be a contributing factor, just like at my company.

    Of course, the next step would be ensuring that the discovery of such would be a terminal offense, and with the current culture of cover-ups and protecting brothers in arms in our police establishments, this might be a bit difficult.

    The last paragraph is the reasonw hy I think we need to have private, uaffiliated investigation firms with some sort of immunity from police interference in their investigation.

  51. #51 |  Charlie O | 

    @44. Love it. That’s a billboard I would happily help pay for.

  52. #52 |  Classical Values » When I was a kid, real men didn’t shoot the family dog | 

    […] via Radley Balko, who also links yet another […]

  53. #53 |  Belle Waring | 

    Just skipping to the end of the thread, so I apologize if matters have moved on, but WTF? Why are you always intent upon ruining my day, Mr. Balko? And why do I, knowing full well you’re about to make me miserable, just come running back for more? A Lab mix? I think the pregnant Chihuahua took the cake, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never been afraid of a lab.

    I always think about the time some friends of mine and I broke into a very old graveyard in Queens (cough*statute of limitations*cough) by lying on our backs and shimmying under the steel wall (it was that or over the razor wire). Suddenly this pack of feral dogs came running up to us, barreling out of the woods, snarling and barking–we figured later they were living with some homeless people in the back of the graveyard, which was all overgrown with trees (earliest graves were in the 1600s). We weren’t getting out the way we came in. OK, some were Lab mixes so I guess I have to take that back; some Pit Bulls; some mystery mutts. My two male friends were paralyzed, and obviously we weren’t all wearing Kevlar and carrying stun guns. I was not a large person at 18.

    I stepped forward and said with all my South Carolina conviction “BAD DOGS! BAD! YOU STOP! Stop right there! You all just stop there and stop making trouble! YOU ARE BEING BAD!” They all stopped, some sat down in case I was going to ask, and then they ran away. Maybe they should train cops in yelling “bad dog.” Though, to be fair, in most of these cases the dog is being good: defending their owner’s property from strangers who smell like they are angry, scared, and mean to do bad things. That’s the dogs’ job.

  54. #54 |  qwints | 

    For what it’s worth, APD has issued an apology of sorts for the shooting: http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/austin/acevedo-vile-threats-aimed-at-apd.