Questions continue over dog shooting
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 7, 2013 1:46 PM
The Goldsboro Police Department is refusing to release the use of force report that was likely completed shortly after officer Edmund Gillette fatally shot a local dog four times.
The document, officials claim, has been handed over to the city attorney and is now "confidential" -- a move lawmen justified last week by citing Sec. 132 of the North Carolina General Statutes, which allows for "confidential communication" between government officials and legal counsel in matters that could result in litigation.
But just what litigation the GPD and city are preparing for remains unclear, as the pitbull's owner, Kenya Wall, has yet to file a lawsuit -- and has given no indication that she or her fiancé are pursuing a resolution to their beloved dog's death via the courts.
This is not the first public records issue that has surfaced since 7-year-old Rika was shot across the street from her home Oct. 22.
The incident report -- a document that is typically completed moments after officers respond to, and investigate, a call -- took three days to surface.
And even then, it was not, Police Chief Jeff Stewart said, penned by either of the officers who were dispatched to check into a report of a "vicious dog."
Rika, those who knew her said, was a docile dog that "would never hurt anybody."
She was a fixture at the local farmer's market, where she could be seen eating tomatoes out of the hands of "little old ladies."
"Rika was one of the best trained dogs I have ever met. She seemed to understand every word that her owner said and did exactly as she was told," said one of the women who used to hand feed her there. "While she may have looked ferocious, she was very, very sweet and showed no aggressive tendencies."
But on Oct. 22, after she slipped out of the gate that surrounds her home, Rika was shot four times by Gillette, who claimed that she charged him, acting aggressively.
The officers said they were responding to a complaint from a caller who said the dog was chasing him.
Ms. Wall heard shots fired at about 7 p.m. that evening.
When her fiancé, Matt Cox, looked out the window, they realized that it was Rika.
A bystander said that Rika slipped out of the gate that had been left open by a family member who had come to visit -- that she was running down the street near a man who was walking and, not too long after, turned around and headed back toward her home.
But as she neared the property, a police patrol car pulled up.
"He said when she was cutting back toward our yard, the cops pulled up right in front of our house and called her back," Ms. Wall said, making whistling and clicking sounds to demonstrate what she was told officers did to lure the dog into the street. "Rika doesn't charge at anybody. Rika doesn't go unless you tell her to go."
Then, the witness said, when Rika responded to their calls, the first few shots were fired.
Rika, then wounded, fell to the ground and remained there while she was shot three more times, Ms. Wall said.
The police account of what happened has been slightly different each time Stewart has discussed it.
The first time he spoke of the incident, Oct. 24, he and Maj. Mike West denied that officers called for Rika -- but admitted they had not yet spoken with the officers who were at the scene.
And when, the following day, the chief was asked again if either officer whistled for the dog, he said he did hear that one of them did.
"But that was a block and a half away," Stewart said.
The consistent message from the department is that Gillette's account of what happened is the truth -- that Ms. Wall is fabricating about the dog being shot while she was on the ground.
The officer, via the incident report, which Stewart said Gillette did not write, repeated much of what Stewart and West offered as an explanation of what transpired that night. Neither Stewart nor West had spoken with Gillette when they offered their account of what occurred.
The dog charged him, the report said.
Then, after shooting Rika -- the shots sent her to the ground -- the dog "got back up again," requiring the officer to display an additional use of force to protect himself.
Ms. Wall and two people who say they witnessed the incident deny the account.
And the location of the bullet holes -- the two located on the dog's underbelly in particular -- raise questions in the minds of some who have seen photographs of Rika's dead body about "how it is even possible to shoot a dog in that spot unless it is lying down."
Those questions, however, won't be answered via the use of force report now that it is being withheld from the public.
And no accessible documentation details which shots hit the dog where.
Stewart, though, has had an answer for the critics since the first time he addressed what happened that night.
His officers, including Gillette, are honest.
Ms. Wall -- and the two witnesses interviewed separately who gave identical accounts of what occurred -- are not telling the truth.
"There's more to it than what (Ms. Wall is) telling you," Stewart said. "That's all I'm saying.
"I have to believe (Gillette). If that's what he said happened, that's what happened."