Police officer sued after shooting puppy dead in front of its owners

A couple in Colorado are suing a police officer who shot their puppy after he initiated an encounter with the pair. In June 2019, Loveland Police Officer Matthew Grashorn arrived in an empty lot, where Wendy Love and her husband were letting their dogs run around and drink water. The officer was responding to a call from the owner of a nearby building, who saw the couple on his remote security cameras and demanded the police see “what they were up to.”

Body camera footage of the incident shows Mr Grashorn arrive and – without announcing his presence – draw his pistol unprompted. He levels his gun on one of the couple’s dogs, who was running over to the man. Mr Grashorn calls the couple to call their dog off, which they do.

The dog obeys. One of the couple’s other dogs, a 14-month-old Staffordshire terrier and boxer mix puppy named Herkimer, leapt out of the truck and darted toward the officer. Before the couple had time to react, Mr Grashorn fired two shots at the dog.

In the video the dog drops to the pavement instantly. Ms Love can be seen standing in shock in the moments after the shooting. “Why did you do that?” Ms Love, obviously shaken, asks in the video.

“I don’t know, because he’s coming after me like he’s going to bite me,” Mr Grashorn said. The couple pleaded with the police to let them rush the puppy to a veterinary hospital, but Mr Grashorn would not allow them to leave until his supervisor arrived. “Ma’am, you’re not going to be able to help him,” Mr Grashorn tells Ms Love in the video.

It took the officer’s supervisor eight minutes to arrive on scene, during which time the dog can occasionally be seen lifting its head off of the pavement. When the dog was eventually taken to the vet, officers told the veterinarian that the animal “had attacked one of our officers.” Herkimer was euthanised four days later, and the couple were charged with a “dangerous dog” offence, though that was later struck down by the district attorney’s office.

The couple are being represented in court by attorney Sarah Schielke, who has sued the Loveland Police Department twice in the last two years. The department has been the subject of excessive force complaints in the past, and on multiple occasions their allegedly heavy-handed tactics have been recorded by officers’ body cameras. “Herkimer was clearly a friendly dog and not dangerous to anybody,” Ms Schielke told The Washington Post. “He looked like he was curious and excited to greet this officer, and watching him get shot in the head and fall down was traumatic.”

The attorney said the only thing “worse than watching a video like this is watching a video like this and not doing anything about it.”

She also claimed that her clients became depressed after Herkimer was killed. The couple said they hope their lawsuit will change a department that “needs to be cleaned out.” The Loveland Police Department’s internal review ruled that Mr Grashorn acted appropriately.

The officer has faced no disciplinary action for the shooting, and has not responded to the lawsuit.

The city of Loveland is still reviewing the complaint.