SALIDA, Colo. (CBS4) – A Salida police officer has been cleared of wrongdoing by his department following a shooting involving a pit bull while the officer was responding to a call for help. Guy, a six-year-old Pit bull survived after being shot in the face, but his owners say they are facing thousands of dollars in vet bills. They claim the dog was not acting aggressively.
Police officers’ body worn cameras were rolling as they responded to reports of a man with a gun at the home on Walnut Street in Salida on October 23. Officers attempted to enter the property through a latched back gate. That’s when Guy can be spotted in the video coming toward the unidentified officer before a single shot is fired.
“First course of reaction was to shoot the dog,” Heath Warner who lives at the home and helps take care of Guy told CBS4.
But there’s more to this story. Salida police tell CBS4 the officer backed all the way out to the alley behind the residence, but the dog continued to come at him. Fearing for his safety and knowing that an officer was bitten by a dog at that address several months prior, the officer discharged his firearm shooting the dog one time, according to a news release.
CBS4 has learned Salida police have responded to calls at this residence more than 40 times in the last year, but Warner said that doesn’t matter.
“I’m even more angry now after seeing the video than I was before. I don’t feel like there was any aggressive nature in the animal,” Warner said.
What lead up to officers arriving at the house is now also part of this investigation.
Chief Russell Johnson with the Salida Police Department said that same evening officers were dispatched to the Salida Walmart for a theft. The store’s loss prevention officer chased a male subject out of the store.
According to the chief, officers arrived in the area and began looking for the suspect. While they were looking for the suspect, they receive a 911 call to the Walnut Street address and the the caller stated there was a male at the home who had a gun. As the communications center began to ask questions, the caller hung up.
Officers immediately cleared the Walmart call and responded to Walnut Street. Once officers arrived, they attempted to contact the occupants. They say that’s when the shooting happened.
Chief Johnson said his officers spoke with the occupants of the home to find out more information about the man with the gun. They learned that no one at the home called the police.
As the officers investigated the 911 call, they had the communication center run a trace on where the 911 phone call originated. It was later found that the caller who placed the 911 call to the Walnut Street home placed the call from the Monarch Spur Trail area, behind the Walmart. Police believe the call was a hoax and most likely a diversion so the Walmart thief could get away.
“I can see why they responded with the guns that they did, but they didn’t have to shoot our dog,” Warner said. “(Guy) is the biggest teddy bear in the world. All he wants to do is love and be loved. He’s never been aggressive to anybody.”
Warner said Guy will need surgery to fix a broken jaw. The dog has a feeding tube and Warner said his medical bills have been more than $500.
His owners believe the City of Salida should pay for the vet bills.
“Guy did not deserve this. No animal deserves to be shot like that,” Warner added.