The Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police has cleared officers of any serious wrongdoing in the shooting death of a pet dog outside the Capitol last November, downplaying an eyewitness statement that partially differed with the police version of the incident.
Chief James J. Carvino has exonerated all of the officers involved in the incident of charges of excessive force, cruelty to animals, false arrest and other charges brought by the dog's owners, Rebecca McClellan and Paul Kaiser, of 730 Maryland Ave. NE.
McClellan and Kaiser are appealing Carvino's decision to the U.S. Capitol Police Board, charging that the investigation ignored a highly critical account of the incident given to police by an eyewitness who said the dog, a mixed Labrador retriever and Great Dane named Kalamazoo, should not have been shot. The witness also charged that police on the scene "were out of order" and used profanity toward McClellan.
The shooting occurred on Nov. 13 in Senate Park, an area on the north side of Constitution Avenue across from the Capitol, when Kalamazoo was shot by officer David Miller, who was on routine patrol in the park with his police dog, Vulcan.
The owners said Kalamazoo was on a leash but was running free when he raced across the park in the direction of the another dog that had barked. Though the owners attempted to call the dog back, Kalamazoo did not respond and was shot in the back. He died five days later at Friendship Hospital for Animals.
A Capitol Police spokesman said at the time that Miller was attacked by the dog and shot it "fearing for the canine Vulcan and himself."
Police conducted a 1 1/2-hour taped interview with the witness, William D. Brooks, an electrician from Brandywine, on Jan. 7. However, according to Capitol Police General Counsel John T. Caulfield, the interview was not considered in Carvino's Feb. 4 decision clearing the officers because the statement had not been transcribed. The only action proposed by Carvino at that time was to discipline Miller for refusing to give his name to McClellan and Kaiser.
In Brooks' statement, a copy of which was given to The Washington Post by Kaiser, Brooks criticized police for being "nasty" to McClellan and said, "If she was my wife, I would have fought with them."
After the shooting, "The policemen were . . . screaming, two or three of them, they were definitely on her McClellan for real," Brooks said. "They said, 'Goddamn it, didn't I tell you to shut up,' and she was called bitch a couple of times . . .
"They touched her three times that I could see, maybe more," Brooks told police in his statement. "The first time an officer told her to move, he gave her a little help . . . . She got back down to the dog and was crying, 'my Kal, my dog . . . . ' "
Brooks also said that police had apparently lost a statement he had given to them that night.
Caulfield said Brooks' interview was transcribed after Carvino submitted his report to the Capitol Police Board, and on March 18 Carvino submitted a second report reaffirming his Feb. 4 conclusions. Police spokesman Bob Howe said Brooks' statement was "weighted accordingly" in the second report, and that a sergeant at the scene was disciplined for "not having done anything" to defuse the situation.
After inquiries by The Post, Carvino reviewed the case and filed a memorandum with the Capitol Police Board amending part of his second report, Howe said. Originally, an allegation that officers had intentionally inflicted emotional trauma on the pet's owners was termed "unfounded" -- meaning it had not occurred, Howe said. Carvino's amendment states the allegation is "not sustained" -- meaning "we can't prove it one way or the other," Howe said.
"We're not saying it didn't happen. Given the circumstances, it's more likely that it did," Howe said. He said, however, that police investigators were not able to identify the specific officers.
In an interview, Carvino said that the sergeant, who was not identified, and Miller had "an entry made in their personnel folders about what we thought their shortcomings may have been." Carvino said the incident has also prompted the department to produce a handbook for the public on how to file complaints and a general order that the Humane Society be called for incidents involving wounded animals.
In a complaint filed with the Capitol Police, McClellan and Kaiser charged that Miller used excessive force, that police "actively hindered" them from getting immediate medical care for their pet, that McClellan was falsely arrested and that police refused to take the dog to the hospital and told them the Washington Humane Society also refused to do so.
The Humane Society has strongly denied the allegation, saying that the police never notified them of the shooting.
In his report, Carvino wrote, "The entire episode could have been avoided if the complainants had their pet leashed and under control."