City Defends Cop Who Shot Man's Blind, Deaf Dog After It Wandered Into Neighbor's Yard

City officials in Missouri are defending a police officer’s decision to fatally shoot a man’s blind and deaf Shih Tzu after the small dog escaped from his backyard.

Disturbing body camera footage obtained by ABC 17 News shows the officer repeatedly shooting the small dog, named Teddy, as it stumbled around a woman’s open backyard in Sturgeon, located north of Columbia, on Sunday evening.

“I’m at a loss,” Teddy’s distraught owner, Nicholas Hunter, told HuffPost by phone Friday. “It still hasn’t kicked in, the reality of it.”

A homeowner who lived near Hunter found Teddy in her yard. Fearing he was lost and in distress, she called the city and took photos of him sitting by a water bowl, which were shared on the city’s Facebook page.

Hunter said he rushed to the scene after getting a call from a friend about Teddy’s escape while he was out with friends.

“The dog drank water from a bowl I provided and licked my arm and leg. He was in no way a threat,” the homeowner, who declined to share her name publicly out of fear of retaliation, told HuffPost. She said her interactions with Teddy had been anything but dangerous.

When Hunter confronted the officer about the shooting, he said the officer threatened him with a loose dog citation. In a later conversation, he said the officer told him that his dog was killed not because Teddy was a public threat but because he looked injured or abandoned.

“I thought the dog was hurt so it was the humane thing to do, to put him down,” Hunter said the officer told him, referring to Teddy’s unusual appearance and movements.

“He carried his head sideways and he walked funny because he can’t see or hear. The vet diagnosed him with a neurological issue, which was the cause of him going deaf and blind,” Hunter said of Teddy, who was 5.

In the body camera footage, Hunter is seen emotionally confronting the officer, who defends his actions, saying the city doesn’t have “a humane society” and that he was responding to the situation with limited information.

In a statement Thursday, the city said it is standing by the officer’s actions. Officials have reviewed the dispatch report and body camera footage and believe “the officer acted within his authority” to protect citizens from the dog causing injury to others.

“The dog’s strange behavior appeared consistent with the dispatch report of an injured or possibly sick dog,” the city said, after initially claiming in a separate post that the officer feared it had rabies. It added that it would send its officers to a local county animal control facility for training and education “in hopes that this unfortunate situation does not occur again.”

The police department and mayor did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment Friday.

The woman identifying herself as the homeowner who called for help told HuffPost that she repeatedly told dispatch that the dog did not appear to be aggressive or a threat. If anyone’s a threat, it’s the gun-toting officer, she said.

The officer shot Teddy within five minutes of arriving on the scene, body camera footage shows.
The officer shot Teddy within five minutes of arriving on the scene, body camera footage shows. supplied

“The officer should not be allowed to be an officer. He struggles with power,” the homeowner told HuffPost.

In a letter addressed to the city’s mayor on Monday, she demanded that the officer be relieved of his duty.

“I cannot stress enough that this animal was in no way a threat to others!” she stated in the letter, a copy of which was shared with HuffPost. “I was concerned the animal would be hit or wander off without locating its owner.”

The woman, who said she’s had to comfort her 17-year-old daughter who witnessed Teddy’s shooting from a kitchen window, said she later got a brief call from the mayor who confirmed that his had office received her complaint.

“The mayor called me but stated he didn’t have time to talk. Nothing more,” she said.

Hunter said he also filed a complaint and requested a call from the mayor, but as of Friday afternoon, he hasn’t heard from a single city official.

“The goal is just to, at this point, for the city to take responsibility and to take actions so this doesn’t happen again to another family,” he said. “I don’t have kids, so my dogs are my family.”