LAPORTE | Police on Friday ruled the fatal shooting of a dog by one of its officers on Easter was justified.
The investigation by the LaPorte Police Department Shooting Review Board also found the owner of the dog was warned just days prior to the shooting that his pet acted aggressively toward two other officers and the chain his animal was fastened to was not secure.
"Having to make the split-second decision to use deadly force to protect yourself or others is not only one of the toughest decisions to make but to live with as well," said LaPorte Police Chief Adam Klimczak.
Officer Christopher Schoof on April 20 went to 316 G St. with a warrant to arrest a man believed to be inside the residence.
In his report, Schoof said "Nero" was on a leash and charging at the officer when the collar broke allowing the dog to get loose from his restraint.
Schoof said he retreated from the dog, but Nero was still coming toward him and showing his teeth when he fired two shots.
The first shot hit the dirt and the other struck the animal in the chest.
There were four people on the front porch about 15 feet directly in front of the officer, who claim if the shots would have been fired too high one of them could have been hit.
They also disputed the findings that Nero was being aggressive, saying he was acting playful, something common for a dog less than a year old.
An online petition calling for the officer's termination had generated more than 500 signatures in just two days after the shooting.
Klimczak added the dog weighed roughly 50 pounds and was also barking while the people at the home did nothing to try and restrain the animal once he broke loose from the leash.
The wanted individual, as it turned out, was not at the home.
According to police, the investigation also revealed the same dog acted "extremely aggressive" toward the two other officers when they responded to the home on an unrelated call just a few days prior to the shooting, and warned the owner about the leash not being properly secured, said police.
The review board also recommended the department's deadly force policy be examined and restructured to provide clearer guidelines on how an officer should respond to an animal behaving viciously.
"No one wants to take a life of a pet, but officers have the right to protect themselves when an aggressive animal is acting in this manner," Klimczak said.