When Officer Tarek Hassani responded to a call of dogs running wildly through a Filer, Idaho, neighborhood on Feb. 8, a pair of Labradors – one yellow, one brown – barked and bounded around him like agitated guard dogs.
The video camera on Hassani’s squad car reveals the stunning events that happened next.
The dogs can be heard barking and growling. They leap around the police officer. The cop draws his gun. He kicks out wildly at the dogs, only stirring them up more. Then, as he makes his way around a vehicle in the driveway, Officer Hassani pulls the trigger.
The brown Lab’s body is slammed to the ground. The barking suddenly turns to whining and whimpering, as the dog named “Hooch” drags its broken body out of the camera’s view.
The dash-cam video has since created an international stir, with hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and tens of thousands of people on Facebook calling for Hassani to be fired for what they say was excessive force used against dogs that weren’t actually threatening or attacking the officer.
Jon Alexander of Idaho’s Twin Falls Times-News was the first to report on the video, writing in his original article, “A dog is dead, and its owner is alleging trigger-happy police work.”
“Sure enough, that video went viral,” Alexander wrote in a subsequent editorial. “It’s gritty, brutal and powerful. Hassani’s .45 caliber hollow-point drives the poor animal into the ground as if it was hit with a sledge hammer. You watch the dog slink away to its death.”
The dashcam video of the shooting can be seen below (Editor’s note: The following video contains graphic, real violence and foul language and may be disturbing to some viewers):
As it turns out, this isn’t the first time the “trigger-happy” Hassani has been under investigation for questionable discharge of a firearm.
Following a high-speed chase of a shooting suspect in May 2010, Hassani approached the suspect’s stopped vehicle, but the tinted glass obstructed his view of the interior. Hassani then fired through the driver’s side front window, wounding the suspect in the head.
Three months later, Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower and Deputy Prosecutor Shawna Dunn absolved Hassani of any wrongdoing following an independent investigation of the events.
“(Hassani’s) actions were justifiable,” Dunn said at the time.
Filer Police Chief Tim Reeves said at the time he was happy that Ada County prosecutors agreed with his department’s findings in the case.
Rick Clubb is the owner of Hooch, the 7-year-old Lab Hassani killed. Clubb suffers from Parkinson’s disease and said Hooch had been his service dog for two years.
Clubb told the Times-News that his son’s 9th birthday party was wrapping up about 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 and that the dogs, which are normally let out in a fenced area in the back yard, escaped out the front door while guests were coming and going.
“We want (Hassani) fired,” Clubb told the newspaper “He had other options. He didn’t have to kill my dog.
“It was right outside my son’s bedroom,” he continued. “What if [the bullet] had ricocheted through the window?”
Police, however, say the dogs had been running loose earlier in the day and previous attempts to find them proved unsuccessful.
Police Chief Reeves again came to Hassani’s defense, telling the Times-News his officer had no choice but to put the Lab down after it kept taking an aggressive posture.
Hassani’s motive in shooting the animal remains a bit mysterious. On one hand, the dogs can be heard and seen barking and growling at the officer; but on the other hand, the video doesn’t show the dog making any attempt to attack him.
Some comments posted on Alexander’s online articles come from people who claim to be locals with first-hand knowledge of Hassani as a local bully with a badge.
Others have reported to be neighbors of Hassani’s who spoke highly of his character.
Pamela Geller of the Freedom Defense Initiative and the Atlas Shrugs blog speculated Hassani may be a Muslim name and suggested Islam is prone to reviling canines.
The video itself contains audio of Hassani speaking with Clubb immediately after the shooting, explaining, “I am sorry I shot your dog. I love dogs, but I am not going to be bit again. Like I said, sir, last time I ended up in the E.R.”
Filer Mayor Rick Dunn told the Times-News the Nampa, Idaho, police department has been hired to investigate the shooting, and Hassani has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.