The Adams County sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a pet dog while responding - at the wrong address - to a burglar alarm Jan. 14 will not face criminal charges.
In a letter Friday, Adams County DA Dave Young said the evidence is "insufficient to have a reasonable likelihood of success at trial in meeting our burden that (deputy Wilfred Europe) 'needlessly' killed the dog beyond a reasonable doubt."
The decision pleased Europe’s attorney, Donald Sisson, who told CBS4, “We are satisfied the district attorney conducted a thorough investigation into the facts surrounding Deputy Wilfred Europe’s use of force. And we are pleased that they recognized that his use of force was reasonable and justified.”
But Jennifer Edwards, the attorney who represents the owner, Jeff Fisher, was disappointed.
“I think the evidence that was examined in the investigation would have lent itself to criminal charges against the officer. The killing .... was not at all necessary,” Edwards told the station.
She told Examiner.com earlier that the deputies, both over 200 pounds, should have been able to sudue Ziggy, an 8-year-old blue healer/border collie mix, without killing him. Fisher said the dog weifhed 35 pounds. Sheriff Douglas Darr said the dog weighed about 55 pounds and was memacing.
Young's letter to Darr noted multiple discrepancies between the deputies' account of the incident that night compared to Fisher's.
Europe and Deputy Dave Slater both gave testimony to investigators that Fisher opened the door after he allegedly closed it shut after deputies made an initial attempt to open the unlocked door. It was at that point, as the deputies held Fisher at gunpoint, that the dog ran out of the building, according to the deputies.
Europe fired twice at the dog after it exited the building. He reported he “had no choice” but to shoot and kill Ziggy as the deputy said the dog was lunging towards him and was threatening to “bite me.”
In contrast, Fisher said: "They just opened the door and opened fire on my dog,"
Officers were originally called to a burglar alarm at 5384 Tennyson St.; however, the location of the actual alarm was 5386 Tennyson St., which was east of the main office of Thoutt Brothers Concrete. Fisher's space — leased from Thoutt Brothers — was north of the main office and did not bear an address on the outside.
The shooting of Ziggy is one of the cases that has fueled community anger over what some perceive as a string of unwarranted animal killings by law enforecement officers in the metro area. The most highly publicized was the killing of Chloe, who was shot multiple times last year by a Commerce City police officer. The officer, Robert Price, faces a felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals.
Responding to the incidents, two Colorado senators are planning to introduce a bill next week that would require officers to take annual canine classes, according to The Denver Post.
Sens. Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat, and David Balmer, a Centennial Republican, said they hope the training will help police understand the difference between a barking dog and a dangerous dog.
The bill would require police departments to adopt policies and procedures for dealing with dogs, including allowing owners to first try to handle the pet. Officers must initially go through a two-hour course, then a one-hour refresher course annually, which could be Web or video training.
The bill includes exceptions for using force, such as when police are responding to a dangerous dog call or violent crime.
"We think the bill strikes the right balance," Balmer said. "It is very respectful of law enforcement, but it is intended to safeguard our beloved dogs."
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