LAS CRUCES – Las Cruces police released information on Thursday of a fatal dog shooting on Monday.
Stormy, a 10-year-old large terrier, was shot dead by police responding to a social check-up at a residence on Willow Street.
Police released a partial body cam video showing Stormy attacking the responding officers and also responded to several allegations, including that the officers laughed after the shooting.
The responding officers, whose names were not included in a press release, are unlikely to be charged, according to the LCPD.
Police say the officer who shot Stormy has four years experience and has been with the LCPD since November 2020. He is expected to return to his regular duties later this week, the press release said.
Stormy’s owner, Jo Rivas, told Sun News Monday that he called the Las Cruces police around 2 p.m. that day because his brother had not slept and he was concerned about his brother’s mental health.
The LCPD press release – which Rivas did not identify – confirmed the reason for the social check: “The man told the caller that his relative had not slept for six to seven days and may have had suicidal thoughts.”
Las Cruces police officers were deployed on record, the statement said.
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Rivas told Sun News that he had asked those who responded to the animal welfare check to call him before they got to the scene so he could lock up his dogs.
The LCPD said it checked 911, which was not made public. According to the police:
“The man told the caller that he had several large dogs and that he was going to ‘lock them up’. Towards the end of the 911 call, the caller repeated his concern for the dogs and asked the man to put them away. The man said he would. Information about the dogs and that their owner would lock them up was passed on to the two officers who responded to the animal welfare check. “
The press release said the caller did not request that the police call him before they arrived.
The bodycam video published by the LCPD shows two officers approaching the house. A large dog runs in the yard as the officers walk towards an open door. An officer pulls his gun out of the holster and briefly points it at the dog coming from the side. Then another dog, Stormy, comes out of a door and runs towards the officers. The police seven-second video, released publicly, shows no shots fired, but shows the officer aiming his gun directly at Stormy.
According to police, the officer fired three shots at the dog.
“It is very unfortunate when an incident like this occurs with someone’s pet,” said Miguel Dominguez, the Las Cruces police chief, in the press release. “Our officers face many dangerous obstacles during the course of their service day and we expect them to remain vigilant and safe. Our community depends on them.
“Our beloved canine companions provide some level of security by warning owners of potential danger or intruders,” said Dominguez. “This incident is regrettable for everyone involved and especially for the owner of the deceased dog. We ask all pet owners to do their part to protect their four-legged friends by taking the necessary precautions when first responders are called to their home. “
Aftermath of the shooting
Rivas and his neighbor James Dvorak, who heard the shooting, told Sun News that they felt disrespectful to the officers who responded after the shooting.
“One of the policemen actually laughed,” said Rivas. “And I was so mad about it.”
Dvorak said he also saw police officers within earshot of Rivas laughing and joking.
“You show up for a social check, kill the person’s dog, and then joke about it. That’s the exact opposite of what you were there for, ”said Dvorak.
A photo taken of a bystander and shared on social media shows the officers who responded smiling.
The news release said investigators found the photo “did not show officers laughing at the dog’s death. The officers simply responded to a misunderstanding from a supervisor who was not on site.”
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In the press release, police also responded to the first call for social assistance, stating that the man’s relative “showed no danger of harming himself or others. He declined all offers of help and transportation for medical assistance.”
This marks the third fatal dog shooting by Las Cruces police in seven years, according to the Sun News archives.
In 2014, a bull terrier named Mac allegedly attacked a 79-year-old man, which sparked a police reaction. The officer responding “tried to leave his patrol unit when the dog aggressively approached and pressed the officer to his unit,” according to an LCPD press release from the time. The officer fired and hit the dog. The owners of Mac later sued LCPD.
In 2017, an officer investigating a suspicious vehicle shot dead a pit bull who allegedly charged him aggressively.
Tips for pet owners
The Las Cruces Police Department has published these tips for pet owners requesting a response from the police, fire departments, rescue workers or other first responders:
- Humanly or temporarily restrain your pet – especially dogs, which may be aggressive or assertive towards strangers – before first responders arrive on the scene.
- If possible, temporarily keep pets in a separate yard, room, or living area while first responders are on-site.
- Make sure that pets cannot escape from their garden or roost.
- Make sure pets always have adequate supplies of fresh drinking water and shade in their permanent and temporary accommodations.
- Plan in advance who will be able to look after your pets in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as sudden absence, medical emergency, hospitalization, etc.
- Make sure the person responsible for looking after your pet during an unforeseen absence has important information such as feeding schedules, medication, and contact information for the veterinarian.
- If you live alone with pets, leave the caretaker’s contact information in a prominent place around the house so that first responders or animal control can reach you if you become incapacitated or have to leave pets unattended for other reasons.
- Keep pets informed about vaccinations.
- Make sure pets are chipped or wear a collar that clearly identifies owner and contact information.
This is a development story and can be updated.
Lucas Peerman can be reached at 575-541-5446, email@example.com or @LittleGuyInATie on Twitter.