Police decision to shoot dog questioned

May 23, 2011 8:32:26 PM PDT
Did a member of a Durham police SWAT team go too far when he shot and killed a dog during a raid in April? Some say it was unnecessary force.

ABC11 cameras captured the incident at a home on Dunstan Avenue April 12.

Officers were looking for Pete Moses and Vania Sisk. According to search warrants, Moses is a suspect in the disappearance of a woman and a 5-year-old boy. Sisk is the boy's mother.

While they've not been charged in the disappearances, the SWAT team arrested the pair on other charges at the Dunstan Avenue home after surrounding it the evening of April 12.

After the people in the home surrendered, the SWAT team approached to make sure no one else was inside. As ABC11 cameras recorded, the lead officer went up the front steps and then turned and fired at a dog three times - killing it.

The dog doesn't appear to be vicious and doesn't appear to lunge at officers. In the video, you can see a man sitting on the stoop of a home next door and others standing on the next porch as the three high-powered rounds were fired in their direction.

The bystanders were not hurt.

Eighteen-year-old Deshawn Porter told ABC11 the dog - a lab named Sheba - was his best friend.

"I didn't know what to say," he said. "My neighbor says they shot my dog several times."

Porter said he asked police why the dog was killed.

"He said the dog was getting vicious and ready to attack," said Porter.

But that's not how others saw it. ABC11 asked the Durham Police Department about the incident. It said the officers were making a high-risk entry and the dog appeared to growl and make aggressive moves.

We showed the video to Kimberly Alboum, state director for the Humane Society.

"That's devastating," she said. "Wow, that's absolutely devastating. That's just shocking."

Alboum said she sees in the video a SWAT team that needs to be trained in dealing with dogs.

"The way it appears on this footage, is that it was just a dog standing up watching them come up on the stairs," she said.

Porter told ABC11 he's sad, angry, and lonely without Sheba around.

Porter said he didn't witness the shooting because he was among those in the house that night who were detained. He is not charged with any crime.

After the standoff, he said police did not apologize and took his dog's body with them when they left the scene. He doesn't know what was done with it.

ABC11 offered to show Durham police officials the video and to also ask if it was appropriate to discharge an automatic weapon so close to innocent civilians. They declined.

The Humane Society told us it plans to reach out to the department to offer free training on how to deal with pets in emergency situations.

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