GPD clears officer in 2021 dog shooting

An officer who reportedly shot a dog last December after it attacked his K9 partner has been cleared of any wrongdoing, the Gillette Police Department (GPD) announced Friday.

The dog, a two-year-old shepherd mix named Sonic, was reportedly shot and injured by a GPD K9 handler on December 15 after it reportedly attacked a police K9 while officers were attempting to subdue an 18-year-old male who was wielding a knife, according to a Jan. 14 GPD statement.

A video of the incident taken by a neighbor that circulated widely on social media showed the K9 officer pulling his K9 partner away from Sonic while screaming for someone to grab him, at times getting between them, and another officer deploying pepper spray.

The K9 officer then pulls his duty weapon and fires a single shot, causing Sonic to initially collapse on the ground and then retreat into the home. He has since been treated and released by a veterinarian and a Go-Fund-Me has been set up to assist the family with the associated medical bills.

The police K9 was injured in the exchange, sustaining multiple bites, and was treated for minor injuries. It has since recovered, per GPD.

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“The internal review of the incident concluded that due to the seriousness and immediacy of the attack on the police K9, the officer’s actions that day were in compliance with policies and law,” the GPD statement says.

Gillette police officers are authorized to discharge their duty weapons with the intent of destroying an animal if killing that animal is justified for self-defense or is to prevent substantial harm to the officer or others, according to department policy.

Two additional less than lethal measures, a taser and a 40mm foam specialty impact munition, were reportedly available at the time of the incident, however, neither was guaranteed to stop the attacks, per GPD.

Use of force incidents are subject to a full review, which means they are analyzed by a panel of supervisors and command staff to ensure adherence to department policy and laws, GPD says, adding that steps are being taken to assist officers in handling future incidents like this one.

An excerpt from the Gillette Police Department policy that states when an officer is allowed to discharge their duty firearm. (Screenshot/Gillette Police Department)