Contact 13 uncovers new case of police killing pets
Photo: Video by ktnv.com
North Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- For many, losing a dog is like losing a family member. When it happens violently, it's that much worse. Especially at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.
During a four-month investigation, Contact 13's Darcy Spears uncovered another case of police killing pets. This time there are allegations of a cover-up.
Tom Walker struggled through tears as he read a poem written about his dogs by a family friend.
"Sweet, gentle, bright spirits. On loan from Heaven above. You brought us joy, laughter and love. Awaiting your loved ones to come through the gate. Taken too soon by ignorance and hate. Your presence on Earth for a blink in time, was a gift to your humans to ease their minds. The love you gave a beacon of light, standing steadfast against the long, lonely night. Never forgotten, you live in our minds. No one to replace two one-of-a-kinds. The lack of you is felt every day. Our fortune to know you along the way. Your chin on a knee, waiting to play. Not knowing you could not stay. Never forgotten. Always beloved. Waiting patiently to see us in Heaven above."
The poetry stands in stark contrast to the images Tom and Cathy Walker have of their dogs' last moments. A pit bull named Pink, and her father, Blue.
"I never had any kids and he (Blue) was the closest thing I ever had to a son. I know a lot of people say their dogs are their family, but he really was."
On Sept. 14, 2012, North Las Vegas police served a narcotics search warrant at the Walker's home.
Tom was arrested and faces three felony charges of possession of stolen property, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell.
"I'll go face the court but I expect them to, there should be court for them."
He's referring to the SWAT team.
The Walker's home video posted on YouTube shows the aftermath of SWAT's involvement. A trail of blood all around the property from Blue as he ran.
"They shot him six times," said Cathy, barely able to get the words out between sobs. "They shot him in the butt, the hip, the shoulder. They chased him all the way around the back until he was hiding under a wheelbarrow. And that's when they started shooting at him again."
They said Pink, just a ten-month-old puppy, didn't make it past the front steps.
"Pinky was laying right there in a pool of blood and her legs were shaking," Tom recalled.
He said he was letting the dogs out to go to the bathroom when SWAT burst onto the property.
"I couldn't even speak before they started shooting. As soon as the gate opened they were firing. My dogs didn't have a chance."
Law enforcement paperwork shows they'd had the home under surveillance for some time.
The family also said police had been there in the past and then, of course, there's the obvious "Beware of Dog" sign.
All adding up to the fact that they said police knew or should have known there were dogs on the property and could have given them the opportunity to deal with them before the cops came in shooting.
North Las Vegas Police Officer Chrissie Coon said, "There were protocols put in place because they knew that there were dogs there and so they had less lethal options available to them to be able to use against these dogs."
But those less lethal options were not used.
Officer Coon said it's the family who put the dogs in harm's way.
"They're faced with two subjects who are not following police orders, who have slammed the door in the officers' face, and now they have two dogs who've just brought chaos to the situation."
"One of the dogs that was killed was a puppy. Was a puppy that much of a threat?" asked Darcy Spears.
"I'm not sure exactly what type of dogs or what breed of dogs or how old those dogs were," said Coon.
As we mentioned at the beginning of our story, the dogs were pit bulls.
So is the Walker's new dog who raced to the gate when we approached, only wanting to be pet.
"I think they should be held responsible for murdering my babies," said Cathy. "Because that's what they did."
You'd think something this violent would be documented in public records, but there is no mention of dogs in anything Contact 13 has obtained. Not the search warrant, police photos or the follow-up report. All the arrest report says is "the home was secured by Special Ops."
"You think there's a cover-up going on here when it comes to your dogs?" asked Darcy.
"Oh absolutely, absolutely," answered Thomas.
In records we've obtained from both Metro and Henderson Police, details of dog shootings have been documented. But we haven't seen that from North Las Vegas, which is responsible for more dog shootings than any other local department.
In the last two years, they've shot 19 dogs, 15 of them died.
Coon said whenever an officer fires a weapon, their accountability process requires it to go through administrative review.
So the documents are kept confidential, "And for that information to go through that oversight, it has to ultimately land in an officer's personnel file."
"Which effectively keeps it secret," said Darcy.
"But that's not the intent of it," said Coon.
It was even kept secret in court.
The transcript from Walker's preliminary hearing shows each time his attorney tries to ask about the dogs, the district attorney interrupts, saying, "I object as to relevance as far as dogs in this case."
The court never ruled on that.
For Thomas Walker, it's just adding insult to injury, "Whatever rules allow them to just come into my place and kill my babies has gotta be changed. It's gotta be changed. This is wrong."
Change may be on the way.
State Senator David Parks is drafting a bill that would require better training for officers to recognize typical animal behavior and avoid deadly force.
His effort is supported by a national campaign through the U.S. Department of Justice.
If you'd like to lend your support for the bill, please reach out to Nevada Voters for Animals by clicking here.
Document: States with puppycide legislation
We will be sending this story and Darcy's previous reports to state and federal lawmakers.
Contact 13 recently won a national Genesis Award from the Humane Society of the United States for those reports.
Previous Contact 13 stories: