You wouldn’t think that police in full tactical gear would be called out to respond to a situation that began with a dispute over dog poop, but that’s exactly what happened in one Wisconsin town. The SWAT team, though, was just the beginning of a controversial, hours-long standoff that ended in the police shooting of a three-year-old Australian cattle dog.
It all began on Saturday in Racine, Wisconsin, where Kim Polk tells WITI Fox 6 that a neighbor let his dog drop a deuce on her yard.
“His dog proceeded to soil my grass,” Polk said, “and I asked him you are going to pick that up because I don’t want that sitting on my grass.”
The man, identified in a later report as Kurt Hanson, apparently didn’t take too kindly to Polk’s request. Polk says Hanson kicked the offending feces into a pile of leaves that she was clearing and proceeded to threaten Polk’s own family dog.
“I’m going to shoot him with a bow and arrow,” Polk says Hanson said. The Racine woman then went to her husband, who went to Hanson’s house in order to confront him over the exchange. Hanson, who has a criminal history dating back to 1980, did not greet them kindly.
“He closed the door and came back to the door with a machete in his hand,” Polk continued, “a very long machete. So at that time, my husband backed up off the property and I had my daughter call the police.”
Police arrived on the scene, and an episode that could have initially been resolved with a pooper scooper or a plastic grocery bag turned into an armed standoff.
Racine Police Chief Art Howell says that Hanson acted aggressively, threatening to harm officers.
“During this standoff,” Howell said in a statement, “the dog owner threatened to use a body armor-piercing crossbow to kill officers, and this subject threatened to use his dog as a weapon against officers as well.”
Howell expressed sadness over what transpired next, which a neighbor captured in a disturbing cell phone video.
While tactical officers take cover behind an armored vehicle, Angel – Hanson’s dog – runs out toward them. The dog appears to turn back toward the house, but officers then fire two shots at the canine, and it fell dead to the ground.
“Officers,” Howell said of the incident, “who for over three hours were focused on peacefully resolving this crisis through dialogue, were now forced to deal with the distraction and unpredictability of having the subject’s dog moving through the scene of this active encounter at a critical time.”
A Facebook page has popped up, demanding “Justice 4 Angel” and garnering more than 2,000 likes as of this writing. The dog’s other owner and about 12 others held a protest in front of police headquarters on Sunday, demanding that something be done in the case.
The Racine shooting marks the latest pet shooting by police in some call a disturbing trend. Police tend to describe the shootings as self defense, but at least one Texas police department has called for additional training for officers to better deal with dogs while responding to calls.
Regarding the shooting of Angel, Howell says that the police department will review the facts of the case, though he maintains that his officers acted appropriately. If the review finds that additional training could result in better outcomes in the future, the department will take the appropriate actions.