A Troutman police officer shot and killed a 2-year-old dog that ran at him while he was serving a warrant Monday night, police say.
The Troutman Police Department is now conducting an internal investigation to determine if the shooting was justified, according to Police Chief Matthew Selves. He released footage from the officer’s body camera showing the moments leading up to the shooting.
Two officers went to the home in the 100 block of Garden Street just before 7:15 p.m. to serve a warrant on Ronald Eckles, who lives at the home, for failure to appear on traffic charges.
The video shows the officer walk to the front door of the home, knock several times, then wave to an 8-year-old boy who appeared at the window.
Seconds later, the front door opens and the dog is heard barking. The officer turns away from the door and moves backward away from the home.
Two gunshots can be heard immediately afterward.
Selves said he is not currently releasing the officer’s name. The officer remains on duty.
The warrant was not served because Eckles was not home at the time.
Family members say they are devastated and that the dog’s death was unnecessary. The dog, a mixed Labrador, was named Lucy.
“She’s never attacked anyone,” Jennifer Small, the owner, said. “She was just being Lucy. She’s a typical dog. She was like ‘I don’t know you. This is my territory.’”
She said it was normal for Lucy to bark at strangers but she would never go beyond the ramp leading from the porch to the front yard. She said the home has multiple “Beware of dog” signs posted.
Small, who is Eckles’ fiancé, was not home at the time of the shooting. Her two sons, 8-year-old CaDen and 17-year-old Christian, were the only ones at the house.
The boys said they remember seeing the officer fire his gun from across the yard and that Lucy was turning around to head back to the house when she died. They also claim Lucy was shot in her side.
Chief Selves says the dog was at the heels of the officer when he fired his gun.
“The dog just charged the officer right out the door and the officer started backpedaling,” Selves said. “I’m surprised he didn’t fall down. The dog was chasing him and just about bit him.”
After seeing the video, Small said the footage was inconclusive. The dog is only visible for a few frames because she is below the height at which the camera films.
“If he was afraid of my dog, which he shouldn’t have been, but if he was he should have used a Taser or pepper spray,” Small said.
Selves said the officer carried a Taser but not pepper spray. The Taser is secured in a zipped pouch on the officer’s uniform and Selves said it would have taken too long to gain access to use.
Small also raised concerns that the officer fired his gun in the direction of her 8-year-old son, who answered the door, saying the officer only thought about his life and not that of her family.
It’s not entirely clear in the video where the boy was standing when the gun was fired. Police say he was still at the door at the top of the ramp and that the officer fired down toward the dog.
Small said she hopes, but does not expect, the officer will be punished.
“All they have to do is say, ‘I’m the law. I put my hand on the Bible. I’m justified. I had to do what I had to do,’” Small said.
Selves said he feels bad for the family but said officers have a right to defend themselves from the threat of eminent force or danger.
“You’ve got to look at it from the officer’s point of view,” Selves said. “In this case I don’t think the dog was controlled properly.”
Selves said he recommends owners restrain any animals before opening the door to strangers.
The internal review should be completed in the next couple of days, Selves said.