Police, dog owner tell differing stories after officer shoots, kills pet

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Commerce City Police are investigating yet another incident involving the use of deadly force against a reportedly vicious dog.

Officers were investigating a child abuse report at a home in the 7300 block of E 82nd Ave at about 1:15pm on Wednesday afternoon. According to police, an aggressive, mixed breed dog that weighed between 40-50 lbs. came out of the house, through the front gate and then bit the officer. The officer then shot and killed the dog.

The dog owner, Nicole Hopkins, has a different story. She says her dog slipped out the front door, but only made it through the front gate because the officer opened it.

“The dog cannot open that gate,” Hopkins said. “The cop had the gate open."

On Wednesday night, Commerce City Police Chief Troy Smith admitted the gate was one of many things that remain under investigation.

“Whether that gate was secured or not secured at this point in time, I don’t know,” Smith said.

What is not in doubt, Smith said, is that the officer suffered a significant bite before opening fire.

“The bite was deep," he said. "In fact the doctor was very concerned that one of the teeth may have struck a bone.”

Similar incidents have been an issue in Commerce City. There have been three recent cases in which deadly force has been used on vicious dogs. Chief Smith says there has also been a 28 percent increase in vicious animal calls so far this year and a 34 percent increase in animal bite reports.

“I can’t tell you at this point in time why those are up, but we can tell you that they are up," Smith said. "We believe that the strategic plan that we have developed to address this has really changed our approach.”

Chief Smith says that strategic plan covers several measures including increased animal response training for officers. He went on to say that the training emphasizes non-lethal solutions.

“All ranges of force are available to them, but we do encourage them and train them to use alternative methods of force if they have the time to react,” Smith said.

The chief said the officer who shot the dog on Wednesday night had limited time to react. Nicole Hopkins disagrees.

“He could have 'Tazed' him or something else," Hopkins said. "The other cops told that cop, ‘Why didn’t you Taze him? Why did you shoot him?”

Chief Smith says the officers are trained to take note of fences and signs like "Beware of Dog" before approaching homes. Hopkins' had both a fence and a warning sign.

Both officers who responded are now on paid administrative leave as police investigate the incident.

Chief Smith acknowledges that the homeowners have cooperated with the investigation and that nobody is currently charged. The person involved with the child abuse investigation was not at the home when police arrived and Hopkins said he does not live there.

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6 comments

  • Nick Barone

    I can tell the Chief why the shootings of “vicious” dogs are up; cop shoots dog because cop can. Cop says dog was “vicious”. Other cops say “OK.” End of story.

    • Mary

      Are you suggesting that the dog bite was faked – or that if you were bitten almost “bone deep” by a dog that wouldn’t release, you wouldn’t have done something even if it was fatal to the dog?

  • EnochWallace

    I’d like to shoot me onena them thar per-pee-traitors, but ifn I can’t find onena them I’ll shoot me a vi-shee-ious dog (yeah, that’s it – vi-shee-ious).

  • Test

    I stepped on a nail that “stuck a bone”. I had to use both hands to pull it out, but I never even went to the doctor for it and it healed up just fine.

    Police need to remember they are trespassers. They may have legal justification, but the animals of the house don’t know it and treat them just like any other trespasser. Dogs can smell aggression, when cops come in all hyped up and ready for “action” the dogs react accordingly. There’s got to be a better way, police need to have better methods to enter private homes when they are not invited.

  • JJ

    I’ve been a police officer for ten years. I’ve encountered countless times were a dog has charged me or bitten (once). Never in my life was my first reaction to shoot the dog. There are options for officers and I’m sick of hearing families losing their pets because of inexpeirenced PD.

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