California Police Walk Past “Beware of Dog Sign,” Fatally Shoot Family Dog, Change Account After Release of Video . . . Later Found To Have Acted Properly

0406_NWS_SGT-L-EMDOGFOLOWe have been following the seemingly endless cases of shootings of dogs around the country. The latest is in El Monte, California where the police entered a family’s front yard some nine months ago (passed “Beware of Dog” signs) and fatally shot the family’s 2-year-old German shepherd. There was no imminent crime or exigent circumstance. Police were coming to collect a photograph of the teenage son of Cathy Luu and Chi Nguyen, whom they had previously reported had run away from home (he returned shortly afterward). A video tape shows the officers, Detective Arlen Castillo and then Officer Ken Fraser, open the gate without calling into the house. Fraser actually pets the family’s pit bull on the way in. Then the German shepherd comes out barking at Castillo and Castillo shoots the dog.

SCHUSTER (Uniform)-07-13-01 El Monte Police Chief Steven Schuster (left) has now announced that “The full incident was investigated, including both officers’ actions, with no sustained policy violations found.” He simply said that “the officers felt that their safety was compromised due to the dog.” That is all it takes apparently.

The video however shows the officers ignoring the “Beware of Dog” signs. That does not seem like a smart idea and created the likelihood of a confrontation with the dog. Notably, the officers account changed after it was disclosed that there was a video tape. Police said the officers shook the gate and proceeded cautiously only to be set upon by the dog. The video shows a very different scene. Shuster shrugged off the discrepancies: “The initial statement included information that was known to the reporting officer at the time, which was prior to knowledge of video evidence. As we learned about the discrepancy, we corrected the statement to the media and public and asked for the original video file to assist in our investigation. We completed a full investigation on this matter, and determined there were no sustained violations.”

That is a remarkably forgiving standard for police misconduct. It is an alternative to the outrageous policy of Dallas Police Chief David Brown revealed a new policy that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. The policy came after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements.

However, in El Monte, they just treat such contradictions with the officers’ account as a “discrepancy” and change the police account. Fraser was later promoted.

Kudos: Michael Blott

52 thoughts on “California Police Walk Past “Beware of Dog Sign,” Fatally Shoot Family Dog, Change Account After Release of Video . . . Later Found To Have Acted Properly”

  1. Bob, When you are a PI you are CONSTANTLY asked about interesting stories. That’s why I often to tell people what I do. But, I have a few I throw out there and this one seems to be one of the favorites, people love dog stories.

    I grew up a Yankee fan but came to hate them when I moved to KC and fell in love w/ the Royals. You may remember, the late 70’s that was a huge rival. I flew my old man out to KC for a couple playoff games. He knew I particularly hated Reggie, and he loved him. So, when those bars came out he sent me a big boxful. Have you tried the Wi. made Cow Pies, made by the Baraboo Candy Co.? They are virtually the same, except Reggie’s had peanuts and Cow Pies use pecans. Although, I hear they came out w/ a peanut butter cow pie which should be spot on.

  2. Oh, and I LOVED Reggie Bars!

    Reggie Bars and Marathon Bars are two candies I truly miss.

  3. I’m thinking that if the police officers were part of a military unit living in a barracks, the K-9 crew would visit the offending officers during the night to throw a well deserved “blanket party.”

  4. Adding more salt to the wound……when the officer did not show up when they said they would, the family called and ask that the officers call them ahead of time when they would get there so they could bring their dogs in. The officers were told by a sign and the department was told by a phone call. You can tell by the waddling that the officers were not physically fit. Studies show that out of shape officers resort to a weapon as they can not physically control a situation. Unions have successfully removed the requirement of physical fitness after the academy.

  5. Dale, great point. I got to know some K-9 cops quite well in KC. Their dog is their partner. I never had a discussion w/ them about gun crazy cops and dogs. But, I have little doubt you are correct. That blue code of silence would be erased because dogs are their blue partner as well.

  6. Perhaps the saddest thing is to hear from policemen who work with police dogs and know their way around kanines. They are torn between what they know about dogs and what their fellow officers do to dogs.

  7. Paul, Absolutely. Mail carriers and delivery people have to deal w/ dogs much more than cops. Some are armed w/ mace, particularly mail carriers, but none have guns! They do just fine. I had a dog sent after me when I was serving parental termination papers on a mother. It was a mean, nasty, ghetto dog. My old man had just sent me a box of Reggie bars to bust my balls. I was a Royals and he a Yankee fan. The Reggie bars had just come out. I had 2 pocketsful of them to share w/ coworkers. Well, those Reggie bars saved my ass. The dog loved them. I know chocolate is bad for dogs but it was him or me. If you have any sense you can pick out the dangerous dogs and cops should have pepper spray. The worst situation was the dogs that would sit under the porch on hot summer days in the ‘hood in KC. They jump out @ you w/o warning. Make you drop a deuce in your trousers.

  8. The “fearing for our lives” trick is sometimes used to attempt to justify what they were doing when they were not justified. It shouldn’t be a blanket excuse and any proper hearing officer knows the difference between a real threat and a paperwork driven excuse.

    1. What I don’t get is that this was a low priority call. There was no chasing of a felon or feel of violence. They were there to pick up a photograph. I understand the need of officers to protect themselves. Dog attacks are no trivial matter for officers. However, many of these shootings seem avoidable with a modicum of caution.

      1. In a former life I was a process server and ran in to situations like this regularly. You just call out to the house and ask them politely to control their dogs. Not a big deal.

  9. Paul C. Schulte: “Since these officers are fearing for their lives all the time, have we recruited a bunch of fraidy-cats into the police forces across the country?”

    Excellent point.

  10. Additionally, the officers delayed allowing the family to take the dog to the vet saying they had to prove licensing. They promised to pay the vet bill and changed their mind when they found the bill was $7000. ( the dog was euthanized) The police told them “get another dog”. The family is not making a claim. I can only surmise intimidation.

  11. More and more information is coming forward that eyewitness testimony is unreliable and that includes the police. It has to do with how our memories work. We attend to the things that are important. In this case the important things were opening the gate, petting the puppy and shooting the big dog. That is what the officer is going to remember. The rest is going to be fill-in, based on those plot points. Of course, in the ‘original version’ the officer will have done everything correctly. Then as more information comes in he will mold the story to fit the new information. And, since it is in the financial interest of the police to have the officer exonerated, that will happen, too.
    Since these officers are fearing for their lives all the time, have we recruited a bunch of fraidy-cats into the police forces across the country?

  12. Here is a new oath police can take when they testify in court…
    I swear to tell the truth because everything I say is truth, and further, if I change my story the new story is also truth because I said it.

  13. Police lie so much that lawyers and judges call it “testilying”. Police officers and their leaders have lost their way and citizens and their pets are at risk. In some cases, the police appear incompetent, cowardly and dishonest. These individuals SHOULD NOT be involved in police services.

  14. “The initial statement included information that was known to the reporting officer at the time, which was prior to knowledge of video evidence. As we learned about the discrepancy, we corrected the statement to the media”

    I’m starting to believe that some of these statements are crafted by the criminally insane. That’s the only way I can understand how police can lie in their public statements with a straight face. If information was “known” to the officer at the time, but contradicted by actual information that wasn’t factually incorrect..

    Never mind. My mind hurts now from the gymnastics it has had to do to even try and process this doublespeak statement.

  15. People need to speak up.

    There have been a few cases where police departments listened to the public and did the right thing.

    But there have been many more cases where cops – like Chief Shuster – arrogantly condone criminal behavior by cops.

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