Video Captures Police Officer Tasering & Killing Therapy DogBy SAM REYNOLDS
Courthouse News Service
Nov. 19, 2013
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DENVER (CN) - A trigger-happy cop Tasered a therapy dog and then shot it to death after it had been caught by a fellow officer - and the abuse was caught on videotape - the dog's disabled owner claims in court.
Gary Branson sued Commerce City, its police Officer Robert Price, who allegedly killed the dog, police Officer Edgar Castillo and animal control Officer Arica Bores, in Federal Court.
Branson, who has an unspecified disability, claims that the officers lied about the while sad incident after killing Chloe, his 4-year-old companion dog: "a captured, wounded, defenseless dog that had not ever attacked anyone, had not bitten anyone, and never moved aggressively toward the officers."
The officers, responding to a call about a loose dog, cornered Chloe in the garage from which she had escaped, and a standoff ensued. Branson had left Chloe with his cousin for a few days, during Thanksgiving holidays.
Though Chloe did not "exhibit any aggressive behavior toward the three officers," they made no attempt to capture her with catch-poles or simply to close her in the garage, Branson says in the lawsuit.
Instead, Price Tasered her.
"As the officers approached, Chloe began to back away from the officers, when Officer Price fired his Taser," the complaint states.
"Chloe was hit by the initial Taser shot and did fall down.
"When Chloe got back up, she retreated further into the garage. She still did not move toward or charge any of the officers or act aggressively, despite the painful experience and assault she had just suffered."
All hell broke loose after Price reloaded and Tasered her again, Branson says.
"When Officer Price fired his second Taser shot at Chloe, Chloe was not knocked down this time and tried to escape for her life.
"Chloe attempted to escape the assault by Officer Price by running desperately toward the open garage door.
"Officer Bores, as she was trained and equipped to do, was able to slip the catch pole noose around Chloe's head as Chloe ran for her life.
"Officer Price, while Chloe was being captured by Officer Bores, drew his service weapon with his right hand and immediately began firing in the direction of Chloe and Officer Bores and the open garage door," according to the complaint.
At least one bullet struck Bores' animal control car, and others could have struck two neighbors who were watching from their driveway, Branson says in the lawsuit.
Branson claims: "Officer Price wanted to kill Chloe to such an extent that he was willing to fire his weapon numerous times in the direction of his fellow officers, civilian bystanders, and in the direction of other homes in the area, despite Chloe being held by a capture pole by a CSO trained in animal control work.
"Officer Price did not act reasonably in murdering Chloe in cold blood."
Unbeknownst to the officers, a 12-year-old neighbor captured the shooting on video.
"Approximately the last five minutes of Chloe's life were captured on videotape by the son of Kenny Collins, from an upstairs window in the Collins home, directly across the street from the Robertson's residence," the complaint states.
The video contradicts the officers' versions of the incident, Branson claims.
"Officer Price, not knowing that there was a videotape of the shooting, prepared a statement for the Commerce Police Department regarding this incident. In that statement, Officer Price knowingly, willfully, and intentionally lied regarding several facts that are clearly apparent from the video.
"Officer Price deliberately lied when reporting that Chloe 'charged towards me in an aggressive manner and stopped 15 feet away.' This did not happen," Branson says in the complaint.
Price also falsely claimed that Chloe was trying to bite the officers and was being "extremely aggressive" toward them, Branson says. He says Castillo and Bores lied too.
They also described the dog as a "pit bull," which Branson says is not the case.
Price was acquitted of aggravated animal cruelty in October, in a criminal trial.
Branson seeks compensatory and consequential damages for Fourth Amendment violations, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and willful and wanton conduct.
He is represented by Jay Swearingen with the Animal Law Center, of Wheat Ridge.