By Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press
A couple whose young dog was shot by a police officer in a northern Colorado city has filed a lawsuit accusing the officer’s supervisors of covering up what happened and claiming that the city has fostered a culture that encourages the use of force.
In body camera footage released Wednesday in support of the lawsuit, two dogs run toward Loveland police Officer Matthew Grashorn as he gets out of his patrol car while responding to a trespassing report in an empty parking lot in June 2019.
Grashorn raises his gun. One of the dogs stops and begins to turn back, in response to calls from owners Wendy Love and Jay Hamm, according to the lawsuit. The younger one, a 14-month-old Staffordshire terrier-boxer mix named Herkimer continues toward the officer and is shot, falling to the ground.
After asking for permission from Grashorn, Love rushes to the wounded dog but Grashorn warns her he could bite her because he’s hurt as she cries. She also asks for permission to take him to a veterinarian but that is not allowed to until about eight minutes later, after Grashorn’s supervisors arrive.
The dog was euthanized after spending four days in intensive care, the lawsuit said. The dog needed expensive spinal surgery and faced a poor quality of life afterward, the couple’s lawyer, Sarah Schielke said.
According to the lawsuit, veterinarians encouraged the dog to be put down because he also faced euthanization after the surgery after being accused of being a dangerous dog by police.
The lawsuit claims that police accused Herkimer of attacking Grashorn and charged Hamm with having a dangerous dog to justify the shooting after Hamm said he would talk to the media about what happened. The charge was later dropped, it said.
There is no audio for the first 30 seconds of the body camera footage, which is standard after a camera is activated. According to the lawsuit, Grashorn did not announce himself because he wanted to surprise the couple. The lawsuit faults him for not retreating back into his car to avoid the dogs.
Love and Hamm initially filed a lawsuit against Grashorn in June but on Tuesday they expanded that lawsuit to also include allegations against his supervisors and the city. According to the lawsuit, a use-of-force report showed that Grashorn’s supervisors found his actions were reasonable and in compliance with department policy.
A spokesperson for Loveland police said it does not comment on litigation. A telephone message and an email to the city attorney’s office was not returned.
The city’s police department has recently come under scrutiny in an arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia that led the arresting officer to be charged with assault and another one with failing to stop him or report his actions.
According to the lawsuit, the shooting happened after Love and Hamm parked their pickup truck in the parking lot of what appeared to be a vacant building to let their three dogs out and do some repair work on a container they were using for their wood delivery business. The owner of the building was inside and, after watching the couple on surveillance footage, asked police to respond to the property, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims that the city puts a priority on responding to calls from businesses and has a pattern of using violence to show owners that their interests are important to them. The lawsuit noted that the woman with dementia who was arrested, Karen Garner, was contacted by police because she was accused of leaving a store without paying for about $14 worth of items.
“The City believes that behaving in this callous, unlawful way will attract more business development to the City,” the lawsuit said.