COMMERCE CITY — An investigation has been ordered regarding the fatal shooting of a lab/pit bull mix by a Commerce City police officer after video of the incident circulated on the Internet and local media.
In a press release from Det. Christian Rasmussen, Interim Police Chief Chuck Saunier sounded off on the probe of the shooting, which happened after officers and Animal Control responded about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, to a call of a loose pit bull in the 9600 block of Nucla Street.
“I have ordered a full investigation of this incident that is already under way,” Saunier said in the release. “I am optimistic it will determine all of the facts of this tragic event. The home video is disturbing, however until the investigation is complete, it is inappropriate to speculate on the incident because we don’t have all of the facts.”
On Nov. 27, Commerce City police turned the investigation over to the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
“As law enforcement personnel, we want to maintain the highest standards and make sure our actions are above reproach,” Saunier said. “I remain optimistic that the investigation will determine all of the facts of this tragic event.”
The dog, a lab/pit bull mix, was being watched by a relative of its owner who lived at the home until it managed to escape after the homeowner left with the garage door still open. Officers tried to contact her for 20 minutes before ultimately trying to restrain the dog and take it to the animal shelter, according to the release.
Officers attempted to use a Taser device on the dog to subdue it but were unsuccessful.
In the video, the dog attempts to run away as officers cornered it inside the garage. At that time, the animal control officer managed to corral the dog with a catch pole around its neck. In a matter of seconds after the dog tried to free itself from the catch pole, an officer took out his service weapon and shot the dog multiple times, killing it on the spot.
“Obviously, this kind of force is a last resort for our officers,” Saunier said in the release. “It truly is a tragedy any time a member of our department has to use their weapon to ensure community safety. Our initial review of this incident indicates that the officers responded appropriately to the 911 call and used the force necessary to protect the public.”
Police charged the homeowner with multiple violations relating to vicious animals and pit bulls. The officers involved remain on active duty, according to CCPD policy.
In a curious move, the department’s release suggested local media have “poorly” portrayed the incident in similar fashion to a prominent incident from 2010 in which an officer shot an animal. While the release does not point to any specific news outlets, it does point out the officer in the 2010 case was vindicated by a jury and that all members of the police department — including those involved in the Nucla shooting — took part in mandatory training for handling canines.
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