A dispute has erupted between a New Jersey family and a police officer who shot the family pet after he was dispatched to investigate a report of a burglary and the officer went to the wrong house.
The conflict comes as police officers nationwide are on the defensive following the death Sunday in police custody of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, which prompted the worst rioting in the city since 1968.
NJ.com reported the shooting of Otto, a German Shepherd, has prompted one commenter to suggest the slogan “Paws up. Don’t shoot,” a reference to the “Hands up. Don’t shoot” slogan that arose from the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Igor Vikobratovic’s dog was shot and killed by officer Kyle Ferreira while he was investigating a burglary report. But the report came from the house across the street from the Vikobratovic home.
Police Chief Benjamin Fox said the officer knocked when he arrived and then opened a gate at the end of a driveway. The dog came out of a window in the home and the officer shot and killed him.
Goran Vukabratovic, Igor’s father, believes the officer didn’t knock as he claimed, because, “If he knocked or rang the bell, the dog would bark like crazy.”
Across the street, the neighbors who were waiting for police told NJ.com they watched Ferreira arrive at the wrong house, go into the yard and shoot the dog.
The chief said he will obtain reports from witnesses, but he defended his officer’s account of the shooting, doubting there are any witnesses who would contradict the story.
“I don’t believe they exist,” he told NJ.com. “I believe this is social media and people sitting behind typewriters just making up stories. But I felt an obligation to make an effort to uncover anybody who’s supposedly an eyewitness.”
Fox said even though his officer went to the wrong house, he “has every right to be prepared to defend himself.”
“Is a burglary suspect going to come out of that window? You don’t know, but there’s a window standing open.”
Igor Vukabratovic said the dog died of shots to his back and chest. Family friends told the news organization the dog never has been aggressive. And family members said they were considering legal action.
See the local report:
The shooting is just the latest in a long string of such incidents on which WND has reported.
That rash of animal shootings by police officers nationwide has law-enforcement agencies running for cover and has prompted calls by state legislators about greater accountability.
WND reported police in Utah shot a family’s dog while searching for a lost boy, prompting hundreds of pet owners to protest last June 28 in front of the Salt Lake City Police Department headquarters. They carried signs demanding “justice for Geist,” a 110-pound Weimaraner shot by a city cop within the dog’s fenced-in back yard. The “missing” boy was later found sleeping in his home.
Watch video of the man whose dog, Geist, was killed by Salt Lake City Police:
Other reports have surfaced in West Virginia, Maryland and California.
The West Virginia incident happened June 24 in a rural area of Mason County. A paramilitary unit scoured the woods bordering the property of 32-year-old Ginger Sweat. Her dog, a 6-year-old beagle-basset hound named Willy Pete, woke up from an afternoon snooze on his porch to the sound of eight officers coming out of the adjacent woods. Willy Pete scampered off to investigate. Sweat, who was putting one of her two young children down for a nap, looked out the window and saw an officer with a police dog on a leash emerge from the woods and ran out outside pleading with the officers not to shoot her dog, begging them to let her bring it inside.
The officer shot once, missing Willy Pete but sending the dog, which had arthritis in its back legs, running back toward Sweat, she told the Charleston Daily Mail. Three more shots were fired. Willy Pete fell dead in a pool of blood behind Sweat’s mobile home.
Richard Bruce Rosenthal, general counsel and co-founder of New York-based the Lexus Project, said police across the country are trending toward less tolerance and less respect for people’s pets, which he sees as part of a larger trend toward more aggressive policing tactics in America.
“It is a growing problem and part of it is, post 9/11, our judicial system has basically trashed the Constitution under the mantle of security, and personal rights cease to exist,” Rosenthal told WND.
“All over the country we have cops shooting dogs for no other reason than they can. And our courts and our elected officials, rather than protecting the citizens and the Constitution, simply see it as a way to take more power and more money. I think it’s a civil-rights violation. I think it’s a constitutional violation.”
A list of shootings:
- Off-duty National City police officer shoots dog in Bonita, California, June 28.
- Newton, Iowa, family wants answers after officer shoots dog, June 24.
- Woman upset after police shoot dog in Topeka, Kansas, June 20.
- San Antonia police shoot, kill dog during drug raid on home, June 20.
- Dog dies after it’s shot by Woonsockett, Rhode Island, police June 16.
- Baltimore police officer accused of slitting the throat of dog, June 14.
- Police officer cites aggression in killing homeless man’s dog June 14.
- Police officer charged after shooting friendly dog in Sulphur, Louisiana, June 11.
- Beverly, New Jersey, cop shoots dog at close range, June 10.
- Dog shot, killed while trying to protect collapsed owner in Broomfield, Colorado, June 1.
- Round Rock, Texas, police shoot, kill family’s dog inside their home while responding to false alarm, May 30