A few days ago on Facebook I saw a photo of what looked like a little dog sleeping, wrapped in a red blanket. I read the attached story, & it turns out that it was a 7-yr-old Blue Heeler named Cisco, who had been shot to death by an Austin police officer who had surprised Cisco & his owner while they were playing frisbee, menaced the owner, then shot Cisco when Cisco reacted with alarm.
Since then, his bereaved owner, Michael Paxton, has created a Facebook page called Justice for Cisco. He says that his aim is not to persecute the APD but to spread awareness so that this kind of tragedy doesn’t keep happening. As a dog owner, I totally support this. It’s terrible to think that some cop can randomly charge into my home for no reason, shoot my dog, & then yell at me about it. I have a lot of friends in HPD & I’d love to think of them as our protectors & heroes, not as rabid murderers. When things like this happen, though, how can one feel safe?
I watched the APD dashboard camera footage. Officer Griffin has his gun drawn before he’s out of the camera’s view. At 00:12 he shouts “Hey, show me your hands, show me your hands! Get your dog!” & at 00:16 he shoots Paxton’s dog. Not even a second passes between “Get your dog” & the gunshot.
There are a lot of arguments in the comments section about who was at fault. From what I can gather:
1. The dispatch gave the cop the wrong address; that part wasn’t the cop’s fault.
2. The suspect’s description didn’t match Paxton at all.
3. The cop says the dog was attacking him; Paxton says he wasn’t.
According to this KVUE article, Austin PD policy regarding pets is “In circumstances where officers encounter any animal which reasonably appears, under the circumstances, to pose and imminent threat to the safety of officers or others, officers are authorized to use deadly force to neutralize such a threat.”
It goes on to say that officers are encouraged to use non-deadly means of neutralization, like tazers, if possible. However, that was not possible since the officer was focused on pointing his gun & yelling at Michael Paxton.
This piece on The Agitator describes how common it is for law officials to shoot pets indiscriminately in order to do their job. There is even a story of SWAT forcing a terrified dog into a burning house to its death & laughing while the owners protest.
Officer Griffin entered Paxton’s property in a state of excitement. He had already drawn his gun. Upon encountering the presumably stunned man in his own garage, Officer Griffin immediately threatened him with deadly force & yelled at him.
Paxton was probably just standing there staring at him in surprise. It was not necessary to point the gun or even to shout. Especially since Paxton didn’t even match the perpetrator’s description.
When the dog came charging out barking, Paxton was unable to hold his hands up in the air at gunpoint & grab his dog simultaneously. Griffin kept shouting, & then shot the dog, probably faster than the dog could even have figured out what was going on sufficient to decide to attack.
So all of this is stupid. Officer Griffin is a big guy. He’s tall. Cisco was a 50 lb Blue Heeler, & in the picture he doesn’t even look 50 lbs. He has a relatively small mouth; it’s not like he’s going to deliver a bite like a pit bull or a rottweiler. He’s a herding dog. A shepherd dog. I’m barely over 5′ & I would not feel mortally threatened by a Blue Heeler barking at me. Even if it did bite me, I doubt I’d need stitches.
When I pointed this out, one of the other commenters on YouTube said “So cops are supposed to be dog experts?” This is a good point. Maybe we need to have some kind of education for our police departments on how to handle aggressive dogs, as well as how to tell when one is not actually going to attack.
Cops are different from the rest of us. They are allowed to shoot us if they think they need to. They are allowed to tell us what to do without restriction if they think they need to. With that power comes certain expectations. We expect them to be able to think fast, & to think accurately. It doesn’t appear that Officer Griffin did this. He went in yelling, created a completely unnecessary panicked situation, & then shot a pet that was only reacting in the way a loyal pet would.
Maybe educational courses on dogs would help. Maybe harsher (or, simply, existent)penalties for killing civilians’ pets would cause someone to think twice (or even once) before discharging his gun. I’m totally open to rational discussion on this. I am a dog owner & I know that if someone climbed over the wall into my yard, even if they were on their way to raid some other adjacent house, my dogs would definitely bark at them. I’m not sure if my dogs would attack but they might. If a big guy was physically threatening me Boomer probably would. I don’t know; it’s something I hope I never have to find out.
But if it does happen, I’d like to think that there’s a chance my dogs would not be used for target practice just for behaving the way they are supposed to.