Before the gunfire, the injured dogs and the accusations of police misconduct, the home security video makes one thing clear: In the gated back yard, the animals and the officer are surprised to see each other.
That Saturday night interaction — an officer-involved shooting that left two emotional-support dogs seriously injured — has embroiled the Minneapolis Police Department in controversy.
Video of the shooting recorded by an overhead security camera has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, including by many animal lovers who are calling for the officer’s badge.
The dogs — Ciroc and Rocko — are both Staffordshire terriers that Jennifer LeMay and her children have had since they were puppies, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. They’re emotional support dogs for LeMay’s two sons, who both suffer from anxiety.
According to the Star Tribune, a friend had been dog-sitting while LeMay and her two daughters were camping. But the trio decided to come home early, and one daughter accidentally triggered the home’s alarm system Saturday night. They called the alarm company, which canceled the alert, but the police were already on their way.
On scene, one officer stayed at the front of the house, the newspaper reported, and another hopped the fence and began looking around the back.
There’s no sound in the video, which LeMay ultimately posted to Facebook.
In the video, the officer has already hopped the fence into the yard and briefly steps out of the camera frame as he investigates.
When he appears again, he’s backpedaling and his gun is raised. The reason for the retreat becomes obvious a few seconds later: A gray and white dog pads into the camera frame.
Its tail is wagging as it closes the distance to the officer, who has his back to the locked gate. The dog appears distracted and doesn’t beeline for the officer. As it closes to within a few feet, the officer fires a single shot. The dog jumps back, falls and rolls on the ground as it tries to get away.
Around that time, a second dog, Rocko, enters the frame. The officer fires at the second dog, and it sprints away.
The Minneapolis Police Department released a statement confirming that the incident happened but did not try to explain the officer’s thinking or rationale for firing. The department also didn’t identify the officer.
“Anytime an officer discharges their firearm in the line of duty there is an investigation that is completed by the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit,” the statement said. “We are in the process of reviewing the video posted online, as well as the officer’s body camera video. We have reached out to the owner of the dogs and will continue to do so during the investigation.”
A police report obtained by the Star Tribune said the dogs charged at the officer.
“While staging at the rear, two large-size pit bulls charged at officer,” the police report narrative said. “Officer dispatched the two dogs, causing them to run back into the residence.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau released a statement Monday afternoon saying the department was “implementing updated mandatory training” about officer-dog encounters.
“I’ve watched the video, and as someone whose family has included dogs most of my life, I can say that it was difficult to watch,” the statement said. “This was an outcome that no one wanted. I’ve asked for an Internal Affairs use of force review. We are reaching out to the family to help them with the veterinary care bills to ensure that both dogs are adequately taken care of.”
Still, LeMay was livid. She declined to be interviewed for this story Monday afternoon, saying “I’ve lawyered up.” Her attorney did not immediately respond to a message.
But she raged about the incident on Facebook.
“Xfinity home central services and 4th precinct can expect to be seeing and hearing from my lawyer bright n early monday morning,” she said on Facebook. “I WILL GET F‑‑‑‑‑‑ JUSTICE FOR MY KIDS! THERE IS NO PENNY OR DOLLAR VALUE TOO WHAT THESE BABIES MEAN TO MY FAMILY, EXTENDED FAMILY, FRIENDS OR ANYONE WHOS LIVES THEYVE BRIGHTENED DAILY! #knowthat”
She told Minneapolis CBS-affiliate WCCO that she’d racked up thousands of dollars in veterinary bills and posted pictures of her dogs’ conditions: Ciroc wrapped in a cone and with bandages on an injured jaw; Rocko with surgical drainage tubes on a stitched belly.
Worsening things, Lemay told the Star Tribune that her daughter had watched the family’s dogs being shot from an upstairs window.
The incident comes as police are under increased scrutiny for their use of force and fatal confrontations with people.
Lemay started a GoFundMe to cover her dogs’ medical bills. It has raised more than $21,000 and been shared by thousands.
“Lord Jesus please make sure my fur babies pull thru this after these trigger happy b‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ tried to take their life! Im begging u!” she wrote.