The Texas Rangers have declined Cleburne officials’ request that the state officers investigate the fatal shooting of a pit bull by a Cleburne police officer in August.
No reason was given for declining the request, said Sgt. Lonny Haschel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said he was disappointed by the Rangers’ decision.
“We explained that this is a unique case,” Cain said Thursday. “I am disappointed because having the Texas Rangers review this, no matter the outcome, is a strong indication of transparency.”
Cleburne’s police department is governed by Civil Service regulations, which must be observed during the investigation, Cain said.
Cain said an outside investigator is looking in to the matter. Cain did not identify him other than to say that he is a retired police officer with no ties to Cleburne’s department. The investigation could be completed in December, he said.
The officer has been on paid leave since Oct. 17 when the dog’s owner posted videos of the shooting on Facebook. She got the video, taken by the officer’s collar camera, by making a public information request.
The video showed the officer making kissing noises, and a dog coming toward him wagging his tail.
In his incident report, the officer said that on Aug. 10, he responded to a 911 call from a woman who said she was trapped in her vehicle by three unrestrained dogs. There was also an elderly woman and a baby in the vehicle, she said.
When the officer arrived, one of the dogs had been secured, but a male pit bull was within 20 feet of him and growling. A female pit bull appeared to be nervous and he made kissing noises to calm the animals.
“I was standing outside the ditch and [the dog] was in the ditch,” the officer wrote. “I raised my duty weapon to the ready position pointed at the growling dog’s head. As soon as I lifted my pistol, the dog began coming up the hill, continuing to growl and display its teeth. The other dog began backing away. I fired three shots at it. It rolled back into the ditch and died.”
The dogs’ owner, Amanda Henderson, has acknowledged that the three pit bulls got out of her enclosed back yard when she was away from home. After she posted the video, hackers targeted Cleburne’s email, website and emergency 911 system. Cain said federal authorities are investigating, and that employees from the information technology department logged over 120 hours to pinpoint and stop the cyber attacks.
And the video prompted two protests in front of Cleburne police headquarters.
Cain said the first protest was peaceful. During the second protest on Nov. 8, Cain said the protesters posted videos of themselves showing several people carrying semiautomatic weapons as they walked up to the entrance of the police department.
“It was more of a nuisance; they didn’t disrupt city services,” he said.
Nonetheless, Cain said. it was “disturbing and upsetting for people to see some protesters carrying their assault weapons to a police department.”
“We respect their right to peacefully protest, but we are going to take our residents’ and police officers’ safety seriously,” he said.
Protest organizer Kory Watkins said Thursday in a Facebook message, “We are going to keep at it until justice is served. We are not happy with officers killing dogs who are wagging their tails. The Police Department is seeing blowback and rightfully so.”
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696