Friday morning, Jacksonville Police Department Chief Andrew Hawkes provided an update on an officer-involved shooting of a German shepherd that occurred July 4.
At approximately 9:58 p.m. July 4, Jacksonville PD officers responded to a call involving illegal use of fireworks on Heath Lane. During the call, an officer shot a German shepherd. The dog was killed and an internal administrative investigation was launched by the Jacksonville P.D.
Chief Hawkes said he would defend his officers’ actions if they felt they faced a danger of injury or death.
“Officers do not have to wait until they are injured to protect themselves from injury, death or threat,” Chief Hawkes said. “I will always adamantly defend my officers’ right to use force to protect themselves from serious bodily injury or death. As part of standard procedure, we initiated our own inquiry. The investigation hasn’t been completed, but I have thoroughly looked into the incident. Unless there’s some stone unturned that I don’t know about, I expect to exonerate this officer.”
During Friday’s press conference, Chief Hawkes showed media members the body cam footage from the officer involved, as well as from a department captain and sergeant who responded to the incident after the shooting.
Chief Hawkes said the officer involved was dispatched to Heath Lane to investigate a call regarding illegal use of fireworks. In the footage, the officer gets out of her vehicle and walks into the yard, investigating the backyard. As she turns to return to her vehicle, another set of fireworks goes off further up the street. The German shepherd then lunges toward the officer. She attempts to calm the dog, but when the dog continues lunging toward her, she fires one round.
“When the dog charged the officer, the officer had less than three seconds to stop the aggressive action of the canine and protect herself from being bitten,” Chief Hawkes said. “The state of Texas teaches officers to aim for the middle of the shoulders or the spine area during canine encounters.”
The officer involved has been with the department for fewer than two years.
The video shows that, after the incident, the family comes out of the house, distraught. The officer apologizes to the family and the dog is taken inside the house in an attempt to stop the bleeding. The officer notified dispatch she had shot the dog and requested a supervisor to the scene. A department captain and a department sergeant arrived and interviewed the homeowner and the owner of the dog.
The sergeant provides the family with information about an emergency veterinarian in Tyler and family members transport the dog to Tyler. However, the dog died en route to the veterinarian.
The video then shows the sergeant speaking with the homeowner and tells him about the ordinances violated — using fireworks within the city limits and having “an aggressive dog” off its leash — but tells the homeowner that, noting “the unfortunate nature of the circumstances of the incident,” enforcement actions will be deferred. Both the sergeant and the homeowner say the fireworks going off may have caused anxiety in the dog that may have led to the aggressive behavior.
The family was present outside the press conference and was emotional when recapping the incident to media members. The investigation is ongoing.