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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.

Vern was shot and killed by an Anne Arundel Police Officer in February. Credit: Justice for Vern __ Chessie Shot by Anne Arundel County Police Facebook page
Vern was shot and killed by an Anne Arundel Police Officer in February. Credit: Justice for Vern __ Chessie Shot by Anne Arundel County Police Facebook page
An Anne Arundel County police officer who shot and killed a family dog has been cleared of any wrongdoing, but the dog’s owner called the death a “murder” of a family member by a rookie officer.

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.”
Sam from Laurel June 19, 2014 at 12:43 AM
"EVEN if one accepts Sam's notion of an animal life's worth versus a human life's worth, it overlooks the VALUE OF THE ANIMAL TO THE HUMANS WHO LOVE IT." Mike, I never disavowed that humans don't love their animals, but the "morally-stunted" argument comes when we can't distinguish between the importance of a human beings life and welfare above an animal. If Mike cannot distinguish between the importance of taking care of his mother, father, children, or siblings above his pet... (speechless)
Mike June 19, 2014 at 11:13 AM
Sam, again, two things. First, you have created a strawman argument, countering something I never said. Claiming I cannot distinguish between taking care of one's mother/father/siblings above one's pet is NOT what I said, not even close, and misses my point completely. Further, you have again perpetuated the nonsense that there was some CHOICE that needed making, between the life of the dog and the life of the officer. That is UTTER NONSENSE. The officer's life was NOT in danger. He didn't even sustain a single bite, much less risk getting killed by the dog. The notion that his life was more important than the dog's implies there was a choice that HAD TO BE MADE. That's blatantly FALSE, on its face. The choice was between the officer KILLING THE DOG, a beloved member of an innocent family, OR, the officer RISKING A POSSIBLE BITE, not risking his life with any significant probability at all. Much less than the risk of dying at a traffic stop. Would you have officers shoot people, rather than talking to them at traffic stops? After all, there MIGHT be mortal danger in dealing with someone at a traffic stop.
Mike June 19, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Further, the real choices were many. RETREATING and RISKING (not suffering, just potentially risking) getting bitten was an EASY option. Pepper spraying the dog (which Mail carriers know), etc. The officer DIDN'T EVEN SUSTAIN ONE BITE. Think about the actual logistics of the engagement for a minute. If a dog ATTACKS, it can cover 20 or 30 feet and bite within 2 seconds. The officer wouldn't have even had time to draw his gun and shoot, most likely, before the first bite in an ATTACK. Which suggests that what happened was that the dog CONFRONTED the officer, and rather than retreating, the officer chose to kill the dog with what was CERTAINLY KNOWN IN ADVANCE to be lethal force. This family not only hadn't committed a crime, the officer KNEW they weren't even suspects in any crime. He wanted to interview them about something else that had happened in the neighborhood. This is AT BEST an officer with TERRIBLE JUDGEMENT who has no business carrying a badge and a gun. He is a danger to the public going forward, as well as a despicable killer.
PH June 19, 2014 at 09:46 PM
Mike, overzealous, bully cops kill HUMANS too. Just read this (oh, and the cops involved WALKED): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2370989/Ethan-Saylor-case-Sheriffs-office-releases-investigative-file-Down-syndrome-man-26-died-handcuffs-floor-refused-leave-movie-theater.html There is WAY too much of this crap going on today. I know there are good cops out there, but I now trust NONE. Yup, right next door in Fredneck county. M.E. ruled the death a homicide and that has never changed. Now the state of MD, in its infinite wisdom, is trying to get the lawsuit the family filed against it and others DISMISSED.
Linda L Fox July 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM
Wouldn't be the first tie a AACo. police officer shot and killed an inocent animal. years ago I was witness to one next to MVA. That pup was not even close. He put humans on that parking lot in danger.

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