LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – Disturbing video of a Loveland police officer shooting and killing a family dog is now at the center of a civil lawsuit filed in Larimer County District Court. The lawsuit accuses Officer Matthew Grashorn of violating Wendy Love and Jay Hamm’s civil rights by “recklessly killing” their 14-month-old puppy, “Herkimer.”
The shooting, which took place on June 29, 2019, happened in a vacant lot in Loveland. Love and Hamm, who own a firewood delivery business, had stopped in the lot with their three dogs. The lawsuit claimed Grashorn was investigating the couple for trespassing when the shooting took place.
In video the officer is seen parking his vehicle and exiting it. Within seconds of exiting his vehicle, body camera footage shows two dogs running through the parking lot. One, later identified as Herkimer, turns and runs toward the officer.
The officer quickly draws his firearm, and as the dog comes within feet of him he fires twice. The lawsuit, filed by Attorney Sarah Schielke, claims Herkimer was shot once in the head and once in the torso.
Audio is not available in the first moments of the video, which was released by Schielke’s Life and Liberty Law Firm. That is likely due to the officer not activating his camera until after the shooting takes place. Most body cameras only record video until the camera is activated, and then the audio will begin recording.
It isn’t clear if the dog was barking or growling at Grashorn before the shooting took place.
After the shooting Love is heard begging Grashorn to let her take the still-living dog to a veterinarian. He tells her she needs to wait until his sergeant arrives to investigate the scene.
Jay Hamm points out Grashorn could have used his taser on the dog. Grashorn responds, “Yeah okay, thanks for telling me how to do my job.”
Later, when the group calmed down somewhat, Hamm again asks Grashorn why he didn’t use his taser. The officer explained, “So if a suspect comes at me with a knife, then I need to tase him before I shoot him? It’s the same thing.”
It would be 13 minutes before Love and Hamm were able to seek medical attention for their dog Herkimer. He was later euthanized.
The Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer and two other senior officers reviewed the video and found no policy violations and deemed Grashorn’s actions reasonable.
Sarah Schielke, the lawyer for Love and Hamm, says that isn’t true.
“It was in violation of Colorado’s Dog Protection Act. It violated all common sense and it violated all common decency,” she said.
Love and Hamm say they don’t want this to happen to another family. Shielke says she thinks after this and the Karen Garner incident, in which a 73-year-old dementia patient suffered a broken arm following a violent arrest by Loveland Police, there may be a culture problem within the department.
“What in the world is going on in Loveland that these things keep coming out?” Shielke asked.
CBS4 reached out to the Loveland Police Department. They issued a statement on Aug. 27: As a result of the recent litigation stemming from this event, the City of Loveland and the Loveland Police Department want to share the planned action in response to the litigation and related public concerns.
“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,” said Loveland City Manager Steve Adams in a statement. “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.”
The LPD understands the public’s concerns and the emotions this video elicits. The use of deadly force against a person or an animal is taken with the utmost seriousness.
“We recognize the need for transparency and accountability in City processes and intend to pursue a fair and complete investigation into all the facts,” said Adams.
The lawsuit claims the department reviewed the shooting and ruled the officer was justified in his actions.
Schielke said her clients were traumatized by the shooting that took place and chose to file a lawsuit after being unable to peacefully move on from the tragic shooting.