Adams County Deputy Wilfred Europe III, who killed 'Ziggy' the dog, taken off patrol permanently

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. - The Adams County deputy who shot a dog named "Ziggy" after responding to the wrong building for a burglary has been taken off patrol duty permanently, according to the Adams County Sheriff's Office.

The announcement of the decision comes after days of silence from the Sheriff's Office.

 Ziggy was shot and killed after deputies went to the wrong building while responding to a burglar alarm, according to lawyers at the Animal Law Center.

Deputy Wilfred Europe III, 31,  was identified as the deputy who pulled the trigger.

Jeff Fisher, the owner of Ziggy, an 8-year-old blue heeler/border collie mix, said he watched as Europe shot and killed his dog in front of his workshop.

"He killed my dog for no reason, no reason at all," Fisher told 7NEWS reporter Amanda Kost.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, Sheriff Douglas Darr responded to what he called "a firestorm of controversy" over the incident.

He also suggested, "There has been too much misinformation, there have been too many people speculating."

Darr recapped that two deputies were sent to respond to a burglar alarm from a west main entry door at Thoutt Brothers Concrete at 5384 Tennyson Street. He did not mention Deputy Europe by name.

The deputies were sent to try to determine what set off the alarm he said, but never got to the right building. Darr pointed to a map while he explained that sign for 5384 is at the end of a long driveway off Tennyson Street. Closer to the road, the building at 5460 also belongs to Thoutt Brothers Concrete.

The deputies parked on the western side of the building at 5460, where there is a sign for Thoutt Brothers Concrete. He said they walked to the west side of a small building to the north of the building at 5460 and east of 5470. The building did not have a street address on the Sheriff's blueprint.

The door is not numbered, but he said it had a small label that said "Advanced Door."

"They found that door to be open… unlocked," Darr said. "The deputies do what they're supposed to do, and they decided to check it. They crack it open and as they crack it open they hear somebody inside and also hear a dog."

The person inside, who was later identified as Fisher, grabbed the door just before the deputy pulled it closed. The sheriff said the two deputies stepped back and drew their weapons.

Fisher opened the door and Darr said the deputies were giving him instructions, including asking him to control his dog. Ziggy did get out and Darr described the animal as "barking and growling."

"One deputy retreated about 20-to-25 feet, um, as the dog was moving toward him he kicked the dog and as we were told it didn't deter the dog. The dog continued to come and the deputy fired two rounds, one of the rounds hitting the dog," the Sheriff said.

According to Darr, the 55-to-57 pound dog was killed about 23-feet from the door.

Fisher had told Kost that Ziggy was running away from the deputy at the time the shots were fired. The Sheriff wouldn't to comment on that, saying it was a piece of the ongoing investigation.

Darr also said his department didn't have a written protocol for handling dogs, but said he expects them to behave "reasonably" with respect to protecting themselves.

Asked about a comment the deputy may have made after the shooting about Fisher getting a new dog, Darr said it was being looked in to.

"We've discovered that a deputy admits he made a comment like that and that will become a part of our internal affairs investigation," Darr said.

Darr said his department would look into training to help avoid a repeat of this situation.

"This is not something we want to go through a second time," Darr said.

"When you're going to conduct an investigation, you have an obligation to get every account from everybody who was there who might know something. And so our detectives went back to the building to try to talk to Mr. Fisher to see if they could get his account of the story. He is understandably upset and did not initially want to talk to us. That has all changed and I can tell you that he has talked to us and has provided us an account of what happened down there and it's a little different today than it was a couple of days ago," Darr said at 3:14 p.m., about half way through the press conference.

Then, just before the end of the press conference, a reporter asked Darr how the statement had changed.

"No, I didn't say that his account was different, what I said is that he is now talking to us. Because, initially, he did not want to talk to us when we went down to have a discussion with him. On the day that the detectives went down to see him, to get his account of the story, he asked us to leave. And that has now changed and we now have the opportunity to talk to him," he answered at 3:23 p.m.

 

-- Deputy Europe's history --

On Feb. 26, 2012, Deputy Europe was on-duty when he shot and killed a man who allegedly lunged for a gun -- later identified as a pellet gun -- during a traffic stop.

In May, the independent Adams County Critical Incident Team ruled the deputy was justified in shooting and killing 40-year-old Don Alan Cambron.

During the traffic stop of four people in a Suzuki Grand Vitara, Deputy Abdulla spotted a black handgun on the back-seat floorboard of the sport utility vehicle,according to the shooting review report.

Deputy Abdulla shouted, "Gun! Gun! Gun!" and "Floorboard!" the report said.

Europe yelled, "Don't move! Don't move! Don't Move!"

Europe later told investigators he saw Cambron, who was seated in the back seat, "lunge" toward the floorboard behind the driver's seat where the gun was.

Europe ordered Cambron, "Put your hands up!" the report said.

Europe said he could not see Cambron's hands and was afraid he had the gun. Europe said he feared for his and Deputy Abdulla's lives and fired three shots, hitting Cambron.

Cambron later died at Denver Health Medical Center.

The gun was later found to be a black pellet gun that looked like a realistic 9mm semiautiomatic handgun, the report said. Several passengers in the vehicle agreed the gun looked real and said they heard the deputes shout "Gun!Gun!Gun!" and "Don't Move!...Put your hands up," the report said.

The shooting review concluded that Europe's actions were justified.

"The prosecution could not disprove that Deputy Europe reasonably believed that there was a credible and life threatening circumstance endangering him and his fellow officers," according to the shooting review report issued by then-Adams County District Attorney Don Quick.

Europe has a history of relatively minor legal violations, including a weapons charge and pleading guilty to having his dog off leash, according to court records,

In 2001, a 20-year-old Europe was charged with unlawful discharging a weapon and possessing an illegal knife in Denver, court records state.

A case summary shows he entered a guilty plea on Dec. 12, 2001, and was sentenced to six months unsupervised probation. 

Europe had a deferred sentence hearing, which allows a defendant to clear their record if they avoid new violations. Both charges were dismissed by the court on June 6, 2001, court records state.

In 2003, he pleaded guilty to having a dog running at large/leash law violation in Denver and was fined $80, according to court records.

In 2004, he was cited failure to vaccinate, license, spay-or-neuter his dog in Denver. Those violations were dismissed.

At age 18, Europe was cited for careless driving in Denver and operating an unsafe vehicle. He pleaded guilty to a lesser moving violation and was fined $26, court records state.