Officer Cleared of Wrongdoing After Shooting a Family’s Dog
An Anne Arundel County police officer who shot and killed a family’s pet has been cleared, but the Reeves family still mourns the loss of their dog, Vern.
Officer Rodney Price was investigating a burglary in the 900 block of Lombarde Circle in Pasadena on Feb. 1 when he was confronted by Vern, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, in the front area outside of the home, Patch previously reported. The officer shot twice, killing the dog.
On April 23, Mike, Vern’s owner, posted on the Patch Boards, grieving the loss:
“On April 26, 2014 my best friend Ches-a-bar Vernon Goldnut Reeves would have been 5 years old. He was shot and killed by a one year rookie police officer of Anne Arundel County PD(north). Vern was in his own yard at the time of the murder. I am heading home this week from Afghanistan to be with his remains and his partner Jazz. May my boy continue to swim in the Heavens of the Chesapeake! Buddy I miss you and will see you very soon.”
Price -- who said in his report that Vern was aggressive -- was put on paid leave during the investigation. Anne Arundel Police Chief Kevin Davis previously said the department recognized the sensitivity of the situation.
Police say the dog was “right on top” of Price when shots were fired, Davis said, according to The Baltimore Sun. Photographs of Price after the shooting showed muddy paw prints on his pants and shirt. A necropsy of the animal determined the shots were fired at close range.
The dog’s owners say on the Facebook page Justice for Vern - Chessie Shot by Anne Arundel County Police that Price was on the porch steps, heard a loud noise behind him which was the barking dog coming out the door onto the porch. “Vern had absolutely no history of aggression, I have never heard him growl in a menacing manner and he did not attack Officer Price,” the owners wrote.
Cary Hansel, the Reeves family’s attorney, told the newspaper the ruling tells officers that it is OK to shoot pets in residential areas.
“His first reaction was to shoot this dog,” Hansel told The Baltimore Sun.
Anne Arundel police have since updated the protocol for dog encounters. Officers were shown a video on how to handle dogs, the department purchased 36 catch poles -- long poles with a loop -- for patrol supervisors and 200 hand-held devices that emit high-frequency sounds to deter dogs were donated.
“We’re happy they’re making some changes in terms of policy, but we’re disappointed it took the death of a beloved family pet to make that happen,” Davis told the Sun.
In a post on the Justice for Vern -- Chessie Shot by Anne Arundel County Police Facebook page, the owner of the page and presumably Vern’s owner, said, “I am so frustrated over this case right now. Not just because Vern died, but with the #AACOPD’s use of the word ‘aggressive.’ Too many police departments are using the catch-all term ‘aggressive dog’ to justify the shooting of family pets.”