A 2-year-old service dog in training named Crios is dead in Pueblo, Colorado, having been shot several times by police early Friday morning. That much is certain.
But while the Pueblo Police Department maintains that its officer acted appropriately to defend himself from “serious injury,” the dog’s owner is accusing the officer of using excessive force and escalating the situation, according to local media reports.
Leslie Hanson, who told the Colorado Springs Gazette that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, reportedly awoke Friday at around 5 a.m. to noise in her front yard. Thinking someone was trying to break in, she told the Gazette she had the gun she owns in hand.
When she looked outside, however, Hanson said she realized the person making the noise was her neighbor, who appeared to be disoriented and possibly under the influence of narcotics, per KOAA. So Hanson called 911.
When police arrived, Hanson said, Crios, a pit bull, made it through an open gate and approached the responding officers. And that’s where Hanson’s and the police’s accounts diverge.
According to Hanson, the dog merely walked up to the front gate and “might have growled,” according to the Pueblo Chieftain. Hanson contends that police then overreacted, opening fire and shooting Crios seven times, according to ABC 13.
“The police in this situation didn't handle it correctly,” Hanson told ABC 13. “I do have PTSD, and I feel that this is bringing back a lot of trauma. It's needless. You don’t need to hurt an animal seven times.”
Police, on the other hand, said Crios charged at them and continued to do so even as officers moved back.
“Eventually, and in order to protect himself from serious injury, the officer fired several rounds striking the dog,” the department said in a statement on Facebook.
The police defended the officer’s use of force as “unfortunate” but necessary and said all officers are trained for such encounters and are taught that “lethal force is a resort last taken,” the statement read.
Crios was later euthanized because of its wounds. In Hanson’s mind, the incident showcases the sharp difference between her own reaction to the initial disturbance and police’s escalation of matters.
“I had enough sense not to shoot, so I don’t know why the officer didn’t do something different,” Hanson told the Gazette.
Hanson also told the Chieftain that she has been unable to sleep since her dog died.
Police confirmed that the officer who shot the dog had his body camera on at the time of the incident and that they are reviewing the footage, which has not been made public.