Friday, September 5, 2014
After months of community outrage, the investigation over the Coeur d’Alene police officer shooting of Arfee, a two-year-old black Lab, has finally been released. And the conclusion is clear: The officer’s use of force violated departmental policy.
To understand how rare such findings are, read Jacob Jones’ story, revealing the Spokane Police Department hasn’t had a single "sustained" finding of excessive force since 2006 (though it did find at least one recent violation of departmental policy.)
The city of Coeur d’Alene has released a number of documents related to the investigation, including the department’s internal use of force report from Lt. Rob Turner, the departments’ Deadly Force Review Board’s finding and an independent review by Robert Bragg, Jr, the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission’s program manager of fitness and force tactics training.
“[T]he deployment and ultimate use of deadly force against the dog was inconsistent with what would commonly be expected from a similarly experienced officer. I believe Officer Kelley failed to fully consider the totality of the circumstances presented at the time which resulted in unreasonable use of force,” Bragg says.
There are still some pieces of information that have not been released, however: Most relevantly, we still don't know how the police department has disciplined the officer.
Here are the highlights from the documents:
— The names of both officers involved have been released. David Kelley was the shooter of Arfee, while his partner, on the other side of the van, was Officer Jason Wiedebush. David Kelley is not a rookie officer. In fact, he has 17 years of law-enforcement experience, including training as a “K9 agitator” in Los Angeles, handling police dogs. Wiedebush was a recruit officer.
— Kelley did not announce the officers’ presence to the owner of the van, because they wanted to keep the element of “surprise.”
— Tinted windows and the sunshine made it impossible to see into the van as Kelley and Wiedebush approached from the back.
— Kelley did not signal Wiedebush that he was drawing his gun.
— Kelley says he did not activate his body camera because his attention was on the dangers posed by the nature of the call, and “the thought of making a swiping motion to activate [his] body camera did not occur to [him.]”
— Kelley, afraid of getting bit on the face, shot “from the hip.” Kelley says the dog barked and growled, lunging his head out inches from his face.
In his report, Kelley wrote the following:
“I had the split-second though that this dog is going to bite me, and bite me immediately. I also had the split-second thought that due to the large opening in the window, I was unsure how far the dog could fit, if not completely exit the opening in the window. I was scared, and in my immediate defense of great bodily injury I fired one round from my handgun.”
Wiedebush could not hear sounds of the dog barking or growling on the other side of the van, but did see the van shift before the shooting.
— The window was open less than 10 inches. The length from the top of Arfee’s back to the bottom of his midsection was 10 to 11 inches. In other words, while the dog could stick his head out, it would have been difficult for the entire dog to fit the window at all, much less leap out through the opening.
“It is agreed the animal’s head and neck protruded from the partially open window, however there is no evidence the animal was going to escape the confines of the vehicle,” the Review Board wrote.
— Arfee’s front legs were still inside the van when he was shot.
— The Deadly Force Review Board does not think Kelley considered the danger of firing his weapon in a residential location with potential pedestrian traffic. “The potential for injury to citizens, including a potential subject in the vehicle, does not appear to have been factored in to the decision prior to using deadly force,” the Board wrote.
— Kelley says he called dispatch to notify the registered owner of the van (“Joseph Jones”) and left a message. Kelley says they waited over 35 minutes for the owner of the van to return before leaving.
— Bragg found no “reasonable explanation” for why Kelley didn’t just move out of the way to avoid the dog. Turner noted the same issue, saying "this was a case where the officer did not have anything behind him to prevent him from gaining distance.”
— Laurie Deus, the animal control officer who responded after the shooting, guessed the animal was “possibly a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix dog” without actually having seen the dog’s head.
“His head was hidden by the left side door,” she wrote.
Asked for a reaction, Arfee’s owner Craig Jones sent a brief text message: “News doesn't make it better.”