DENVER (AP) — A couple whose young dog was shot by a police officer in Loveland has filed a lawsuit accusing the officer’s supervisors of covering up what happened and claiming that the city has fostered a culture that encourages the use of force.
The shooting happened in 2019 in Loveland. Wednesday's announcement of the lawsuit accompanied with body camera video follows another high-profile lawsuit announced back in April, also against Loveland officers for their 2020 arrest of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia.
Body camera footage, which is graphic and may be disturbing to some, shows two dogs running toward Officer Mathew Grashorn after he gets out of his car. One stops, but a 14-month-old Staffordshire Terrier-Boxer mix continues toward him, and Grashorn shoots the dog. According to the lawsuit, the dog was euthanized four days later.
Five months after the shooting occurred, the Loveland Police Department's chain of command reviewed the video and found the shooting “violated no policy” and was “reasonable,” according to attorney Sarah Schielke of The Life & Liberty Law Office, the firm representing the couple.
Police declined to comment on the allegations, but Schielke said Grashorn violated policy and training.
"Colorado has the Dog Protection Act," Schielke said. "It requires — it's supposed to at least — a heightened additional amount of training for officers so they're not gunning dogs down the second they see one."
The lawsuit is filed against Grashorn; his supervisor, Sgt. Philip Metzler and Chief Robert Ticer. According to court documents, Metzler was also on scene following the arrest of Karen Garner.
The lawsuit said Grashorn could've taken several alternatives instead of shooting at the dog, including: taking two steps backwards and getting in his vehicle, taking two steps backwards and using the door of his vehicle as a buffer or shield, using a taser, using a baton, using pepper spray or shooting next to the dog to scare him, "rather than directly into his skull to end his life."
"Somehow all of us citizens, we're all making it from point A to point B not gunning each other's dogs down. If you see what this officer saw in this video and think you need to shoot that dog twice, you shouldn’t be a police officer," Schielke said.
The lawsuit also alleged that Loveland officers lied to Larimer County Animal Control to cover their actions by calling the dog "dangerous" and saying that the dog had "attacked police and needed to be euthanized."
Schielke said her clients were afraid to come forward and press charges for fear of retaliation. She said the death of the couple's dog under these circumstances has been devastating for the pair.
The City of Loveland provided the following statement on Aug. 27, saying it takes thee use of deadly force against a person or an animal "with the utmost seriousness":
“Body-worn camera footage captured that day is difficult to watch, and we deeply empathize with the family over the untimely loss of their dog.
"We have pledged to increase accountability and transparency for our community – including any opportunity to seek clarity into specific events. In accordance with police department policies and this pledge, the City intends to launch an additional independent investigation into the incident.
"We recognize the need for transparency and accountability in City processes and intend to pursue a fair and complete investigation into all the facts."