UPDATE 2: Prosecutor says officer acted in self-defense against aggressive dogs

Dec. 1—The Vigo County Prosecutor's Office says a city police officer acted in self-defense against aggressive dogs he encountered Monday evening when responding to an animal complaint on Ohio Street.

A news release issued Wednesday afternoon by Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said multiple videos of the incident and other information has been reviewed.

No basis for animal cruelty was found from the officer's actions, which appear to be conduct necessary to prevent injury to the accused person, the release said.

Original post: 10;16 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021

A video alleging animal cruelty by a city police officer has more than 134 thousand views since being posted on social media, but city police are saying there is more to the story than the 22-second clip shows.

The brief clip shows a Terre Haute Police officer approaching a house where he repeatedly kicks a barking dog on a porch. The dog yelps and runs off the porch. The officer then knocks on the door of the house.

Police have issued a statement about the video, indicating it is a snippet of a much longer event. The text posted with the video is also inaccurate, police said.

“While the conduct in the video has been determined by the prosecutor to not constitute a crime by the officer,” Police Chief Shawn Keen said in a statement, “and the body camera footage is in sharp contrast to the original social media narrative, we will still be objectively evaluating the conduct to see if it violates any departmental policies or directives. During this process, the sergeant will be placed on administrative duty assignment.”

The entire statement by Chief Keen follows:

“We have received a number of messages alerting us to a Ring video that was posted to social media and reportedly represents a sergeant with our department allegedly responding to a burglary. This short video depicts the sergeant's encounter with a dog on a porch. Based on this shared narrative and brief segment of video, we absolutely understand the perception and outrage expressed by many. We hold the highest regard for our police K9s and consider them all part of our family. Many of us have our own animals and would no more want to see them hurt than our own children. That being said, we have begun an investigation into this matter after providing all private video, body camera video, and reports to the prosecutor's office for an independent review consistent with policy. While this investigation continues, there is some general information that we can provide to correct some of the misinformation being disseminated.

“Officers were not dispatched to this residence for a burglary?

“On Nov. 29, 2021, at approximately 7:05 p.m., the Vigo County Central Dispatch received a call complaining of an aggressive white pit bull in the 1700 block of Ohio Street that had been 'charging at everyone that goes by. RP advised that he has bitten a child and a mailman in the past and is very very aggressive.' The reporting person also advised that this is an ongoing problem.

“A check revealed that on May 2, 2020, at approximately 7:50 p.m., officers were sent to the same address for a white pit bull that had bitten an 11-year-old girl. At that time, officers reported that an adult female resident had indicated that her daughter had left the gate open and the dog had gotten out and went after the juvenile victim. The adult female was cited for Failure to Restrain a Dog Resulting in Bite or Attack.

“This is the information received and the call history known to officers when responding to this call. Any claim that officers were responding to a reported burglary is untrue.

“What does the body camera video tell us?

“While the Ring video depicts approximately 76 seconds of this call showing officers entering the porch to try and make contact with the dog owners, the body camera video depicts 1 hour and 13 minutes of time for this call. The first 3 minutes and 46 seconds of the body camera footage depicts the arrival of the sergeant thru the brown dog running from the porch. At 1 minute and 3 seconds, the body camera shows both the white pit bull and the brown dog running at the officer from the east. Both dogs appear aggressive and continue to lunge at the sergeant from separate sides. At 2 minutes 11 seconds, the officer attempts to speak to a neighbor to the east when the brown dog again lunges at the officer repeatedly. At 2 minutes and 52 seconds, the sergeant gets away from the brown dog and begins speaking with a female neighbor about prior problems with the dogs. At 3 minutes 31 seconds, the sergeant is seen stepping onto the porch in line with the Ring video. At 5 minutes and 52 seconds, the officer points out to a neighbor an opening in the fence where he believes the dogs got out from. The rest of the body camera video depicts officers waiting for a male resident to arrive and officers speaking to him about the animals.

“During the video, the male was cited for 2 counts of non-immunized animal, 2 counts of dangerous animal prohibited, and 2 counts of animal restraint. We have included the first 3 minutes and 46 seconds of the body camera footage to provide a better understanding of what led up to the Ring video. The Vigo County Prosecutor's Office will also be releasing the full footage later today. While long, the later exchange between the resident and officers provides significant insight into the circumstances of this incident.

“If the call was for aggressive dogs, where did the burglary claim originate?

“After the original call completed, at approximately 10:49 P.M., the male resident contacted police again and reported that after speaking with his family, he believes someone may have gotten into their residence and that is how the dogs escaped. Nothing was reported missing at that time and no video was available depicting an intruder. This claim remains under investigation, but there are currently no witnesses or video indicating an intruder was present or that the dogs scared one off.

“What is being done?

“Upon learning of this video, we contacted the male resident and asked multiple times if he wished to make a complaint, and he declined.

“The department has also provided all video, reports, and body camera videos to the Vigo County Prosecutor's Office to review and determine if any laws were broken. This is our policy to ensure that we are not investigating our own employees when there are allegations that may violate law. Having viewed all of the videos in their entirety and all reports, the prosecutor's office has provided us a written determination that no criminal activity was found to have occurred on the part of the officer. The prosecutor's office also independently contacted the male resident and offered to meet with him or any member of his family to allow them to view the full body camera footage. The prosecutor's office indicated that this offer was declined.

“While the conduct in the video has been determined by the prosecutor to not constitute a crime by the officer and the body camera footage is in sharp contrast to the original social media narrative, we will still be objectively evaluating the conduct to see if it violates any departmental policies or directives. During this process, the sergeant will be placed on administrative duty assignment.”

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