Oregon Live reported today that the Idaho police officer who shot a dog named Arfee is being investigated and the officer has been reassigned to desk duty. According to Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Ron Clark, the shooting was "a regrettable tragedy."
Mayor Steve Widmyer stated that the city will take full responsibility if the investigation determines that mistakes were made during the incident.
Arfee's owner, Craig Jones of Colorado, hired an attorney on July 10 and plans to file a lawsuit against the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Police Department. Arfee was inside his own vehicle when the police officer approached and was described as a "vicious pit bull." Arfee was actually a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever.
The Coeur d'Alene police reported that an officer had responded on Wednesday, July 9 to a report of a suspicious van in the downtown area. The police officer shot the dog with one round in the chest when it "lunged from the driver's side window."
Jones, who was in a coffee shop, had left his vehicle in the shade with the window rolled halfway down. There was no indication of what was transpiring outside.
"I didn't even know if he was still alive. They took [Arfee] and left me a note, a card, on my windshield. No police officer in sight," Jones stated.
"This guy just wounded me so deeply. This will never go away. This was my best friend."
Jones, who is originally from Coeur d'Alene but now lives in Colorado, was in town because his mother recently died.
"There's no way I can just return to Colorado without my dog," Jones said.
"I was planning on moving back up here actually and was just going to go back to get my stuff. But something like this is such a catastrophic thing in my life that I don't know where I can go to escape it. There's going to be a cloud over my head for a long time."
According to Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Ron Clark, animal control officers originally identified Arfee as a pit bull. A veterinarian later confirmed that Arfee was, in fact, a black Labrador retriever.
Police Chief Clark stated in a news release that the police department has been receiving threatening calls and emails regarding this shooting. As a result, the name of the officer will not be released at this time.
"We understand the grief the family is dealing with due to the loss of their pet. We also understand the distress this has caused for citizens," Clark said in a statement.
He added: "The officer who shot the dog is also distraught over this incident."
Coeur d'Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer said that the city would conduct a review of the shooting. They will release these findings to the public.
“This still isn’t even real to me,” stated Jones. According to Jones, two-year-old Arfee didn't have a mean bone in his body.
“If my dog is barking and wondering who's peering through the windows, he doesn't care if you're a cop, an attorney, or President Bush. He doesn't know any difference,” Jones stated.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident of a police shooting with a dog. Police shootings of dogs have been in the news frequently - and this is the second shooting of a dog by a police officer in Idaho this year alone that has resulted in a possible lawsuit.
In Feb., seven-year-old Hooch, also a Labrador retriever, was fatally shot by a Southern Idaho officer responding to a call that dogs were running loose. The dog shooting was filmed, and after that footage was released, animal advocates demanded that the officer be fired. Hooch's owners filed a notice to sue the city, the officer, and the police force. The notice seeks $150,000 in damages, plus court costs.
In 2010, a Des Moines, Washington Newfoundland named Rosie was fatally shot by the police as she cowered in the bushes. Rosie's owners, Charles and Deirdre Wright, filed a civil suit with the city totaling $600,000 on the two-year anniversary of Rosie's death.
Rosie had escaped from her yard in Nov. 2010. Officers were called to the scene after someone reported a loose dog in the neighborhood. The officers, who claimed that Rosie was behaving aggressively, tazed the frightened dog. A chase ensued and Rosie ran to an adjoining yard, where she tried to hide in the bushes. The police officers shot her multiple times as a family watched. Rosie succumbed to her injuries just outside of her home.
The entire incident was recorded, including one of the officers exclaiming, "Nice!" after the first shot hit Rosie. The dog's family successfully sued the police department, with Rosie's owners agreeing to a settlement of $51,000 plus attorney's fees.
Other dog shootings have also hit the news recently. In Jan. of this year, a Chesapeake Bay retriever was shot by police in Maryland, which has had several other police shootings of family pets in recent years. In Aug. 2010, a federal police officer fatally shot a Siberian husky. In July 2008, a SWAT team member shot and killed two Labrador retrievers during a home search after mistakenly believing that the homeowner was involved in drug trafficking.
Recently, a Weimaraner named Geist was shot in Salt Lake City, Utah - and there has been a tremendous outcry over his death. The dog, who was shot on June 18, was also in his own fenced yard at the time.