Anne Arundel County, MD – A jury awarded a family $1.26 million in damages for the death of their dog who was fatally shot by an Anne Arundel County police officer in 2014.
The incident occurred at about 4 p.m. on Feb. 1, 2014 when a rookie officer was investigating a burglary complaint, the Capital Gazette reported.
Anne Arundel Police Officer Rodney Price went to a home in the 900-block of Lombardee Circle as he canvassed for witnesses and encountered a dog who lived there, according to police.
Officials said Michael Reeves’ pet, “Vern,” a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, “confronted” Officer Price in the front yard and the officer opened fire, the Capital Gazette reported.
Officer Price, who had been on the police force for just a year, fired twice at Vern, killing him.
It turned out the Reeves family had no connection to the burglary that the officer had been investigating, the Capital Gazette reported.
The family said their dog barked at Officer Price and ran toward him when the officer entered their yard.
Then-Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis met with the Reeves family and promised a full investigation into what exactly had led up to their pet’s death, the Capital Gazette reported.
Anne Arundel County police conducted an internal investigation into the incident and determined that the dog was aggressive and Officer Price was justified in shooting him.
But a necropsy that was performed at the request of the Anne Arundel County Police Department showed that Vern died from one gunshot to his sternum and one gunshot to his side, and raised questions about that determination, the Capital Gazette reported.
The bullet to the dog’s side entered when the dog’s body was perpendicular to the gun, according to the report.
Reeves’ attorney, Cary J. Hansel, said Officer Price’s testimony contradicted the evidence from the dog’s death report, the Capital Gazette reported.
Hansel said the jury was specifically asked by the judge whether they believed, from the testimony and evidence, that the dog had attacked Officer Price.
The jury’s verdict said it did not believe the dog had attacked the police officer and that he was wrongly shot and killed, the Capital Gazette reported.
They awarded Reeves $1.26 million dollars.
The verdict gave Reeves $500,000 in monetary damages and $760,000 for the pain and anguish the shooting cause, the Capital Gazette reported.
Reeves is a defense contractor who claimed he had taken a year off work to train the dog, and then lost more work after the dog was shot.
“The verdict sends a strong message to the police about… community expectations,” Hansel said in a statement after the verdict. “The duty to serve and protect extends to our animal family members as well.”
Officer Price remains an active-duty police officer with the department, the Capital Gazette reported.