A Commerce City police officer facing a charge of aggravated animal cruelty for shooting and killing a dog last year was acquitted today by an Adams County jury, the Denver Post reported.
The case got high visibility because a neighbor videotaped the shooting and the tape was played repeatedly on television. The tape left some question whether the dog, Chloe, was threatening police and the case outraged animal activists, who picketed and spoke out at city council meetings.
According to the newspaper, prosecutors had argued that officers who testified in the trial that the dog was vicious and aggressive should not be trusted because the video doesn't support their reports.
Defense attorney's argued that a five minute video can't be trusted as it is not able to show everything that happened during the close to 30 minutes that officers were on scene.
Defense attorneys have also presented still shots from the video, which they say show the dog was moving toward the officers before the shooting.
The officer, Robert Price, was one of several who responded last Nov. 24 after a Commerce City resident called police saying that an unknown dog, first thought to be a pit bull, was running through her neighborhood. Chloe, 3, had escaped from the garage of a woman taking care of her while the owner was out of town for Thanksgiving.
An animal control officer tried to snag the dog with a catchpole after it had returned to the open garage. During the trial, there was testimony that she didn't have the dog under complete control. Officers also tasered Chloe, who they considered aggressive and dangerous. Price fatally shot the dog five times and was later charged by the Adams County District Attorney's office.
KOA radio reported that DA's investigators went the extra mile by attending a necropsy of the dog at CSU with a forensic pathologist who's an expert in gunshot wounds.
An attorney who represents the dog's owner, Gary Branson, said the charges against Price were "entirely appropriate." Jennifer Edwards of the Animal Law Center in Wheat Ridge, could not be reached for comment today.
Despite early reports about Chloe being a pit bull mix, Edwards was convinced the dog is mostly a Labrador Retriever. She said she believed police were guilty of "visual bias." Commerce City law bans pit bulls in the city.
People commenting today on a Facebook page, Justice for Chloe, were angry.
"I'm destroyed here," one wrote. "We're living a nightmare here folks. ... Hold your babies tight and please protect them. It's going to get worse now."
The Chloe shooting is one of a series of dog shootings by law enforcement officers that led to passage of the Dog Protection Act by the state Legislature earlier this year. When Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the legislation May 13, it became the first such law in the country.
The law requires law officers to undergo a training session to learn how to deal with reportedly aggressive dogs. A task force is now putting the training program together.
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