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Woman who claims Aurora police wrongfully killed her dog considers lawsuit

AURORA, Colo. -- A woman is considering a lawsuit against the Aurora Police Department after she said her dog was wrongfully shot and killed by an officer last month.

Police body cameras captured the incident. Valeria Rios said the video will haunt her the rest of her life.

"I told myself I have to watch it to know he didn't deserve it," she said.

The shooting happened the night of Oct. 22. Several police patrol vehicles rolled into a parking lot of an apartment complex after the department received calls about two aggressive dogs that had attacked another dog out for a walk with its owner.

After several minutes in his patrol car, officer Mike Hawkins gets out of his vehicle and shoots one of the dogs with a shotgun.

The wounded animal somehow survived and stumbled away.

"One of them ran up on me and crouched down, started growling and barking. I was like 'Uh uh.' He was like within 5 feet of me. I shot him," Hawkins can be heard saying on the video.

The body camera video doesn't capture that interaction described by Hawkins, but several officers also claimed the dog was ready to attack.

Hawkins further defended his decision in a police report.

"This action was necessary to defend myself. I do not believe a taser, pepper spray, or less lethal shotgun would have been effective," the report said.

"The dogs ran up to my car and jumped onto it a couple of times barking at me. In my 23 years of police experience I had never seen a dog do this."

However, Rios' lawyer Juliet Piccone isn't buying it.

"The report was basically created to justify something that was unjustifiable," she said.

"They way he talked about them, the way he had his gun loaded before he even got out of the car, he was out there with intentions to kill him," Rios said.

Officers eventually found the dog, bleeding and gasping for breath.

Rios got to say a quick goodbye before a veterinarian euthanized the animal, but it's a loss she and her family will never understand.

"We can't even say his name at home because my dad is so upset," she said. "(The officer) should look at dogs as family members because that's what Angelo was."

The other dog was not injured.

Rios is considering a lawsuit, which would not be unprecedented. A Commerce City family was awarded $262,500 in January as part of a settlement. Their therapy dog was shot and killed by a police officer in 2012.