There is another lawsuit over a family dog shot by police. In Austin, Julian Reyes has sued over the killing of Shiner Bock, his German Shepard. He claims in the lawsuit that police were responding to a burglary call and shot Shiner Bock when the dog challenged them by barking.
An artist, Reyes was preparing for a festival when the police arrived around midnight on April 24th. He was going to present his art at the festival and was working in his storage unit with Shiner Bock keeping him company. In interviews, Reyes says that Shiner started growling at something outside of the storage unit. He said that he told him to stop growling but then saw a flash of light and saw Shiner try to run away. He said the police officer then shot him repeatedly. He was still alive and crying when police threw Reyes to the ground and cuffed him. He says that they would not let him go to his dog and he had to watch Shiner die 50 feet away.
The police department has issued a statement that the officer fired out of fear for his own safety when confronted by a dog that was growling and showing his teeth. Jermaine Kilgore with Austin Police insisted that an officer is not required to use pepper spray in such a circumstance: “If a dog is acting aggressive towards an officer and the officer feels that the dog is going to attack, the officer is not going to pull pepper spray. He’s going to eliminate that threat, the dog. And the only way to do that with the options that we have is with lethal force. So we’re not obligated to pull pepper spray when we have an aggressive dog that appears to be trying to attack us. That’s just not the way we’re trained and that’s just not what the department expects of us.”
Reyes says that the officer did apologize to him. He said that he told the officer “I hear what you’re saying, I hear you apologizing. And I forgive you. So I forgave him that night. And that’s grace. That’s what we can do when bad things happen, we can still have a little grace. I wish the police officers would have a little grace when they operate.” He has however sued the police department for a million dollars. If the scene unfolded as he related, there may be need for such litigation to force changes in the training of officers.
These cases often raise difficult questions on the valuation of the loss. The law still treats dogs as chattel so the high damage awards are not for the value of the dog but the valuation of the pain and suffering of the human.
My problem with the police account is that it is hardly unforeseeable that approaching a home or storage locker late at night will result in such a confrontation. I am not sure why pepper spray is not part of the training as an initial response. As we have seen, it often seems that the escalation to lethal force is far too rapid in such encounters. However, it is difficult to judge such actions without being at the scene and seeing how the animal moved or acted. That is precisely what makes these cases so difficult.
Reyes has created a Facebook testimonial to Shiner Bock.
Kodos: Michael Blott