Police officers in Augusta, Kansas shot and killed an army veteran’s service dog during a house-call. Police say the dog was killed in self-defense, but army veteran Alan Fitzgerald says that he lost more than a pet.
“He was my one and only child, because I never had any kids.”
Alan Fitzgerald, like many veterans, suffers from PTSD and kept Midnite, a black German Shepherd, around to help him cope with his trauma and anxiety. He says that Midnite was certified in December and showed KSNW a copy of Midnite’s identification card and service animal vest.
“Whenever I was having some sort of episode of oncoming anxiety, he knew what to do. He’d come up and nudge me or do something silly. He’d turn over on his back and give that little smile, you know, that dogs give. I’m just going to miss all of that.”
Midnite was shot when officers approached Fitzgerald’s house due to a complaint from a neighbor about the dog. Midnite had been playing a few houses down with a neighbor’s smaller dog, hovering over the smaller dog and chasing it. Fitzgerald spoke with the owner of the smaller dog, who wasn’t hurt at all in the playing. Still, the owner complained about Midnite being loose.
Not long after, Midnite would pay the ultimate price.
Police and animal control officers approached Fitzgerald’s mobile home and knocked on the door. They pounded on the screen door, sending Midnite into a barking frenzy.
“All of a sudden, I heard this pound pound pound on the screen door. And I heard Midnite barking, obviously hes going to bark because he’s guarding the house.”
What follows after Midnite’s barking are two conflicting accounts of the same incident.
According to police, the front door was open but the glass screen door was shut. The dog rushed and hit the glass screen door, startling the officer. When the dog charged again, the door opened and Midnite rushed at the officer.
“In his attempt to get away from the dog, he was backing up and backed off the porch and hit his head. The dog charged him, trying to bite him, and the officer that was there at the scene fired his weapon and killed the dog.”
But neighbors tell a different story. Eyewitness accounts say that it was actually the officer who opened the door, and trespassing onto Fitzgerald’s property sent Midnite into a frenzy. When the officer saw the dog he backed up, but since he had opened the door it was too late–Midnite was out of the house.
“He opened the door and took a step into the house, and immediately came back out because Midnite had you know, met him at the door. The next thing I know, he’s sitting there kicking midnight and has his baton and is hitting Midnite.”
Once Midnite was outside and in attack mode, officers shot him. Fitzgerald described how all he heard from inside his home was barking, gunshots, and the sound of his beloved pet screaming in agony.
“All of a sudden then I heard shots fired and I heard my dog screaming in agony.”
In a video for KSNW, Fitzgerald is visibly distraught over losing his friend. He says the Midnite crawled back to the front door before drawing his last breath.
The officer who shot Midnite feels “terrible” and has lost sleep over the incident. Yet the police chief places the blame on Fitzgerald.
“Frankly, I put this on the owner of that dog. As far as I’m concerned, this is irresponsible dog ownership.”
Alan Fitzgerald is considering taking legal action in Midnite’s memory.
[Featured Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]