JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Newly released body camera video from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office shows the moments immediately after a patrolman shot and killed a Westside family's dog in December.
The footage from the Dec. 19 incident captures the homeowner's emotional two sons when they see what has happened to their dog named Prophet.
Editor's note: While News4Jax has chosen not to show the moment the dog was shot, many may find the video and the audio disturbing.
“Oh my, he shot Prophet. Oh my God,” the teens can be heard crying in the video when they see their dog lying on the ground. “Why would you shoot him? Sir, please, why?” asked one of the boys.
The Sheriff's Office released the footage Thursday evening after a public records request. The agency had originally posted on its social media only the portion of the video showing the dog being shot.
Police said the pit bull terrier charged the officer, who fired "in fear for his safety." But the dog’s owner believes it could have been handled better and he’s now considering a lawsuit against JSO.
"The dog was like a child to us and I don’t think they gave him half a chance," Matthew Long, the dog's owner, told News4Jax on Friday. "I don’t think they realized what they had done to my family. To them, it was just another day and, to me, I lost a family member."
According to the original report, the officer was responding to a home on Maple Street after its burglary alarm was accidentally triggered by children in the house. In the report, the officer said that the dog approached him in a threatening manner.
“I was coming around, he was between here, and he came at me,” the officer can be heard saying in the video.
The boys question the officer, asking why he was there. Then, the boys call their father on the phone.
“Yeah, who is the cop that shot my f***** dog? I want to know who he is. I want his name and I got a sergeant that’s on his way there right now that’s in my family,” Long can be heard saying.
The officer called for backup and a supervisor. Long arrived and spoke his mind.
Long: "I want to talk to somebody except the person who shot my dog."
Police: "The person who shot your dog is not here right now."
Long: "OK. Great. I want his information and I want to know why he was walking around my yard."
In the video, Long is clearly upset with the officers who came to investigate.
Long: "You all just killed my dog I’ve had for f***** 12 years."
Police: "I know you’re pretty upset."
Long: "Yeah, I’m pretty f****** upset."
Police: "I get it."
Long then asks whether JSO could have used mace.
Long: "So why don’t you use mace? What’s the problem?"
Police: "Every circumstance is different."
Long: "That dog is 12 years old. You killed him right before Christmas in front of my f***** kids."
Leaders of the Sheriff’s Office took a look at the case almost immediately. A review board watched the video from that body camera and found that the officer was justified in his decision to pull the trigger.
Long said he doesn’t believe his pet was out to bite, and said he also feels the officers were rude to his devastated family. Immediately after the shooting, the family hired an attorney and plans to take legal action. Tarak Anada, the attorney representing Long, believes the officer should have reacted differently.
"In responding to the scene, police officers are supposed to take note of the environment and what he is seeing as he approaches the scene," Anada said Friday. "If he is approaching private property and there are obvious signs that the owner of this private property has a pet dog, that's something that he needs to take into account. He needs (to be) prepared for a potential encounter with the family's pet dog."
Long wants better training for police and justice for what happened to his pet.
"I would like to see JSO be better trained, be more responsible when it comes to handling people's animals," he said.
According to JSO records, dating back to Jan. 1, 2016, police have been responded to the Maple Street home for:
2 calls for domestic disturbances
2 calls for disturbances
1 call for an animal complaint, and that was the day before Prophet was shot
1 call for a burglar alarm, three days before Prophet was shot