An Alabama boxer named Athena was shot and killed on February 18 by Cullman County Sheriff's Department officer Rob Cook. This article was written based on information provided by the family, who are seeking justice on what they feel was the unwarranted execution of a member of their family. I invite the readers here to read their story and comment on whether or not Officer Cook was within his rights to shoot and kill Athena.
Athena was the 5-year-old family boxer belonging to Joshua and Crystal Parker of Cullman County, Alabama. She spent her days playing with the children, sleeping with various members of the family, and just being a good dog. Her life ended on the evening of February 18 when Crystal opened the door for Athena to take a bathroom break in the yard. Five children had recently been playing in the yard, ages 11 months old to eight years old. Crystal was waiting at the door for Athena to finish with her bathroom break and had turned her head for only a second when she heard the first shot. She had seen the officer parked in the churchyard next door sitting in his car and talking on his cell phone.
The gunfire sounded very close to the door, and for a second Crystal believed someone had fired a shot at her. It was then they saw Athena bleeding and trying to drag herself back to the house. Their family dog had been shot in her side by Officer Cook.
Joshua Parker went over to the officer's vehicle to ask why Athena had been shot. The officer replied that he felt his life was in danger. When asked why he was on church property, he told Joshua he was "patrolling." The officer was standing on the inside of his car door when the shooting took place.
The problem with Athena's death is boundary lines. Athena was right on the property line dividing her own property with that belonging to the church. Do the readers here believe the officer had the right to shoot a docile family dog because she was possibly(or not) twp feet on the other side of where she should be?
This has been a horrific experience for the Parker family. The officer was running a background check on Joshua Parker as he attempted to stop his dog from bleeding to death.
Not only was Mr. Parker denied the right to get immediate veterinary assistance for Athena, the officer hadn't been trained in the proper method to take down an animal, should it be determined dangerous. The American Veterinary Medical Association clearly states the only humane method to shoot and kill a dog is a bullet to the brain. A gunshot to any other part of the body constitutes animal cruelty.
The Cullman County Sheriff's Department returned to the property two days later to investigate. Chances are the officer will be cleared of any wrongdoing. That's almost always the case when family dogs are shot by police. Dog owners are fortunate the court system is beginning to see things differently and siding with the owner rather than the police.
The Parker family was told by the department that a call had come in the day before concerning Athena being on church property. The Parker's believe this to be a lie because the officer would have come to the home about this issue instead of sitting in the church parking lot.
Parker paid a visit to the Cullman County Sheriff's Department and was told the officer was going around his patrol car to the passenger side to get a bottle of water. His story was later changed to say he was getting something out of his trunk when Athena approached him. This story differs from eyewitness accounts that state the officer was seen talking on his cell phone a second before the shot was fired. Immediately after shooting Athena, the officer was seen standing by his car putting his gun back in its holster.
Personally, I question the ethics of any officer who uses gunfire as a first line of defense. Especially on a dog that was a good distance away and not known to be vicious. I feel confident these senseless shootings will decline in number as families fight back and win large court settlements for the murder of a family pet.
The family is seeking justice for Athena, which may include a lawsuit. They've already spoken to an attorney, and were told their civil rights had been violated.
I encourage the Cullman County Sheriff's Department to comment on this article and state the reason Athena was shot to death when she was at least 15 feet from the officer. Cooks patrol car should have provided adequate protection from Athena.
Readers can follow the story of Athena on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JusticeForAthena
Readers, your comments are welcome on whether the Sheriff's Department should be held accountable, or did Officer Cook operate within policy.