09/22/08 — Mayor: Mount Olive officer made 'horrible mistake'

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Mayor: Mount Olive officer made 'horrible mistake'

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 22, 2008 1:42 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A "horrible mistake."

That is how Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. characterized a Thursday evening shooting that left a 45-pound Labrador retriever dead and a 24-year town resident grieving the loss of her beloved pet.

"Wrong. Absolutely wrong."

Durham Dog

Photo submitted

Former Mount Olive College baseball player Michael Kicia and his dog, Durham. Durham died Thursday evening when a police officer shot him twice with a shotgun in response to a vicious dog call.

That's how McDonald responded when asked about how police officer Dustin Sasser handled the situation -- firing a shotgun twice inside town limits, in front of children, according to witnesses.

But the mayor would not place all the responsibility on Sasser or the Police Department.

He said the town, too, must take some, as it seems "clear" to him that many of its officers lack the training to make the "right call."

McDonald hardly had time to eat Sunday, spending the majority of his day, instead, fielding questions from residents about the incident.

All he could say to them was what he reiterated during a Sunday evening interview -- that he would "make it right."

"We can't bring him back," McDonald said about 2-year-old Durham. "But we can do something to show that we're sorry this happened."

It was just after 7 Thursday evening when Sasser and another officer responded to a "vicious dog" call on West Main Street.

Sasser ended up shooting the 45-pound "aggressor," a Labrador called "playful," "always happy" and "harmless" by those who knew him.

The dog's owner, Colby Mangum, said Durham was fine when she left for work, that he must have "wiggled out of the yard."

She had no idea she would come home to find him in a plastic bag on the side of the road.

When Sasser's supervisor showed up at Ms. Mangum's home later that evening to discuss the incident, he said the dog had lunged at an officer, but was too far away to control with mace.

"He was very cold, very rude," Ms. Mangum said Friday afternoon. "He said, 'Well ma'am, that's procedure.'"

McDonald disagrees.

"I don't know of any rule or regulation that we have got that permits an officer to kill somebody's pet," he said. "It sounds like we made a horrible mistake. ... It's wrong. Absolutely wrong. I'm sure my board feels the same way."

McDonald knows he can't bring Durham back.

His dog was shot by Mount Olive officers more than 25 years ago, and he still carries the pain with him.

But he can "try to make it right."

"I think we owe an apology and we need to help them get another dog if they decide they want one," McDonald said. "Dogs become a part of your family."

And with the help of Town Manager Charles Brown and members of the Town Board, a "non-lethal" policy can be drafted and passed.

"We need to make sure this never happens again. Not in our town," McDonald said. "It sounds like we made a horrible mistake, so we're going to do what is right."

Officials from the Mount Olive Police Department said an investigation into the shooting is currently under way, one they expect to complete as early as this afternoon.