Police Defend Fatal Shooting of Escaped Pet, Chief Calls Dog ‘Danger and Threat’

Lebanon City Police said in a statement on Friday that an officer shot and killed Gunner, a one-year-old German Shepherd who had escaped from his owner’s yard, “as a last resort…to protect the officers and the public from danger”.

Chief Todd H. Breiner’s statement comes two days after the three officers, responding to a call about a stray dog, cornered, tasered and captured the dog with a pole. Gunner was on the ground wagging his tail, video appears to show of the incident, when one of the officers drew his handgun and fatally shot the dog in the head.

Read more: Police shoot rescue dog in Lebanon yard; now the dog owner wants to know why

According to the police chief, the decision was made to kill the dog because it “became aggressive” and bit the pole.

“Based on the dog’s behavior, officers reasonably believed that if the dog was able to escape from the capture post, it would attack one of them,” Chief Breiner said in the statement. “The officers thought the dog was a danger and a threat.

“As a last resort, officers unfortunately shot the dog once in order to prevent a complete escape from the capture post and to protect officers and the public from harm.”

Gunner’s owner, Jacklyn Shughart, told LebTown Thursday that Gunner and his other dog, a German Shepherd mix named Riker, apparently escaped from his yard when someone opened the gate to his property. His family quickly picked up Riker, but they couldn’t locate Gunner, a German Shepherd with Labrador Retriever and Husky blood, who they adopted about a year ago from Davis Dog Farm in Grantville.

Gunner, in a photo provided by Jacklyn Shughart.

Lebanese resident Kimberlee Pichardo said she called police when she found a stray dog ​​in her yard. She was inside her home with her children when officers arrived to retrieve the dog, and she took video of the incident – including the moment Gunner was killed. She insisted in several Facebook comments that the dog was not aggressive and that no one was in danger.

Pichardo said she was “traumatized and heartbroken” by what she saw. In another comment, she said the police “lied and told him he was aggressive towards my children and them” but said that was not the case. Her kids weren’t even out at the time, she said, and Gunner was obviously more scared than hostile toward the police.

“He was literally hiding and trying to get away from them for no reason to shoot…he wasn’t mean or aggressive at all, just scared,” Pichardo wrote.

Shughart said Thursday she was “trying to figure out” what led to Gunner’s death.

She described Gunner as “a curious little pup” and “the biggest lovable idiot”.

“I’m not trying to hit the cops that were there,” Shughart said Thursday afternoon. “I don’t blame them for doing their job if they thought they were threatened.”

After watching the video, however, Shughart said Thursday night that she wasn’t sure police were being entirely honest with her when describing how the incident happened. She declined to comment further, pending advice from a lawyer on how best to proceed.

Video shot by Kimberlee Pichardo of Gunner’s encounter with three Lebanon City police officers on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. Please note that some people may find the video disturbing to watch.

Davis Dog Farm also got involved. The nonprofit relief group posted a Facebook post on Wednesday – which has since been deleted – saying that Gunner “was shot in cold blood”.

The message said the shelter intended to “pursue this to the fullest because Gunner’s life mattered and he deserved none of this.” Shelter representatives said they requested body camera footage to show exactly what led to the shooting.

Davis Dog Farm executive director Janea Davis said she would issue a statement on the incident on Friday morning after “evaluating and formulating our thoughts and legal options.” However, no statement was made and several shelter employees deleted their posts and comments about the shooting.

Breiner did not immediately respond when asked by email if police planned to release the officer’s body camera footage of the incident.

Here is the full text of Breiner’s statement:

On 7th June 22 at 10.26am police were called to a residence in the 00 block of Tiffany Lane when the caller said a stray dog ​​had been found in his garden. The caller said he found the dog when he was leaving his own dog outside. The caller told officers that he attempted to provide the dog with water and the dog growled at him.

Responding officers called the Lebanon County Humane Society and the PA Dog Warden asking for help, no help was available. Officers conducted searches to determine the owner of the dog via department records, but were unsuccessful in identifying an owner. The dog was not wearing a collar. The dog was not in a safe place to prevent him from moving and leaving the yard. In total, before taking any action to retrieve the dog, officers spent about an hour trying to resolve this service call without needing to use a pole.

The three officers on site made several attempts to capture the dog using the capture pole. These efforts were in vain. Officers decided to use a Taser to incapacitate the dog to facilitate the successful use of the capture pole. The dog’s inability provided the opportunity to successfully loop the catch pole on the dog. An officer held the capture post in an attempt to tire and calm the dog.

The dog became aggressive biting the catch post, requiring an additional officer to help control the catch post. The catch post has come loose due to the dogs’ continued aggressive behavior. Based on the dog’s behavior, officers reasonably believed that if the dog managed to escape from the capture post, it would attack one of them. Officers believed the dog to be a danger and a threat. As a last resort, officers unfortunately shot the dog once in order to prevent it completely escaping from the capture post and to protect officers and the public from harm.

The dog’s owner was identified shortly after the incident when she contacted police to report the dog missing. She told police her two dogs had run loose, but she recovered one before contacting police about the second dog.

The owner responded to the Lebanon City Police Department, at which point the owner told police he suspected a stranger had opened the door to his yard releasing the two dogs. The police returned the body of the dog to him at his request.

Police are requesting assistance in identifying the person(s) responsible for opening the door as directed by the owner.

Police are conducting a routine internal investigation into the incident.

Attached is a downloadable copy of the Chief’s Statement.

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