Lebanon city police said in a statement Friday that an officer shot and killed Gunner, a 1-year-old German shepherd that had escaped from his owner’s yard, “as a last resort … to protect officers and the public from endangerment.”
The statement from Chief Todd H. Breiner comes two days after the three police officers, responding to a call about a stray dog, cornered, tasered, and captured the dog with a catch pole. Gunner was on the ground and wagging his tail, a video of the incident appears to show, when one of the officers drew his sidearm and fatally shot the dog in the head.
According to the police chief, the decision was made to kill the dog because it “became aggressive” and bit the catch pole.
“Based on the dog’s behavior, Officers reasonably believed that if the dog was able to escape the catch pole it would attack one of them,” Chief Breiner said in the release. “The Officers believed the dog to be a danger and a threat.
“As a last resort the officers regrettable shot the dog one time in order to prevent complete escape from the catch pole and to protect officers and the public from endangerment.”
Gunner’s owner, Jacklyn Shughart, told LebTown on Thursday that Gunner and her other dog, a German shepherd mix named Riker, apparently escaped from her yard when someone opened the gate to her property. Her family recovered Riker quickly but they were unable to locate Gunner, a German shepherd with some Labrador retriever and husky blood, who they had adopted about a year ago from Davis Dog Farm in Grantville.
Lebanon resident Kimberlee Pichardo said she called police when she found a stray dog in her yard. She was inside her home with her children when officers arrived to get the dog, and she took a video of the incident – including the moment when Gunner was killed. She insisted in multiple Facebook comments that the dog was not aggressive, and no one was in danger.
Pichardo said she was “traumatized and heartbroken” by what she had seen. In another comment, she said police “lied and told her that he was being aggressive towards my children and them,” but said that wasn’t the case. Her children weren’t even outside at the time, she said, and Gunner was obviously more frightened than hostile toward police.
“He was literally hiding and trying to get away from them no reason to shoot … he was not mean or aggressive at all just scared,” Pichardo wrote.
Shughart said on Thursday that she was “trying to understand” what had led to Gunner’s death.
She described Gunner as “a curious little puppy” and “the biggest lovable goofball.”
“I’m not trying to bash the cops who were there,” Shughart said Thursday afternoon. “I’m not mad at them for doing their job if they thought they were threatened.”
After watching the video, however, Shughart said Thursday evening that she isn’t sure police were entirely truthful with her when they described how the incident occurred. She declined to comment further, pending advice from an attorney on how best to proceed.
Davis Dog Farm has also gotten involved. The nonprofit rescue group on Wednesday posted a message on Facebook – which has since been removed – saying Gunner “was shot in cold blood.”
The message noted the shelter intends to “pursue this to the fullest extent because Gunner’s life mattered and he never deserved any of this.” Shelter representatives said they have requested body cam footage to show exactly what led to the shooting.
Davis Dog Farm executive director Janea Davis said she would make a statement about the incident Friday morning after “assessing and formulating our thoughts and legal options.” However, no statement was forthcoming, and several shelter employees have deleted their posts and comments about the shooting.
Breiner did not immediately respond when asked via email if police plan to release the officer’s body cam footage of the incident.
Here is the complete text of Breiner’s statement:
On 7-06-22 at 1026 hours, police were called to a residence on the 00 block of Tiffany Lane when the caller stated a stray dog was found in his backyard. The caller stated he found the dog when he was leaving his own dog outside. The caller told officers he attempted to provide the dog water and the dog growled at him.
Responding officers called the Lebanon County Humane Society and the PA Dog Warden to request assistance, no assistance was available. Officers conducted research to determine the owner of the dog via departmental records with no success in identifying an owner. The dog was not wearing a collar. The dog was not in a secure location to prevent it from movement and leaving the yard. In total before taking any action to recover the dog, officers spent approximately one hour making attempts to resolve this call for service without the need to use a catch pole.
The three officers on scene made several attempts to capture the dog with the use of the catch pole. Those efforts were unsuccessful. Officers made a decision to utilize a Taser to incapacitate the dog to facilitate successful use of the catch pole. The incapacitation of the dog provided the opportunity to successfully loop the catch pole on the dog. An officer held the catch pole in an effort to tire and calm the dog.
The dog became aggressive biting the catch pole which caused a need for an additional officer to help control the catch pole. The catch pole became loose due to the dogs continued aggressive behavior. Based on the dog’s behavior, Officers reasonably believed that if the dog was able to escape the catch pole it would attack one of them. The Officers believed the dog to be a danger and a threat. As a last resort the officers regrettable shot the dog one time in order to prevent complete escape from the catch pole and to protect officers and the public from endangerment.
The dog owner was identified shortly after the incident when she contacted police to report the dog missing. She told police her two dogs had been running at large however, she recovered one prior to contacting police concerning the second dog.
The owner responded to the Lebanon City Police Department at which time the owner told police she suspected an unknown person opened the gate to her yard releasing the two dogs. Police returned the dog’s remains to her at her request.
Police are asking for assistance in identifying the person(s) responsible for opening the gate as stated by the owner.
Police are conducting a routine internal investigation of the incident.
Attached is a downloadable copy of the chief’s statement.
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