A traffic stop in Aurora ended with a family’s dog being shot and killed by a police officer.
“It is unfortunate the way it turned out,” Aurora Police Chief Seth Riewaldt said.
On July 5 at about 5 p.m., Riewaldt said Officer Christopher Reiter followed a 53-year-old Aurora woman’s vehicle to her East Garfield Road driveway after receiving a report of a possible impaired driver. The woman and her dog were in the vehicle.
“The dog was acting in a very aggressive manner,” Riewaldt said. “Officer Reiter was shouting to the driver to roll up the windows. She was either unable to or unwilling to do so.
“The dog came out of the window, and the officer retreated around the front of the car. The dog kept charging, and he fired.”
Riewaldt said Reiter fired one shot. “I know Officer Reiter wishes he didn’t have to do it,” Riewaldt said. “I support him. He is an experienced officer.”
A police report has not yet been filed, police said. The dog, Pele, 6, was a male Australian shepherd mix and weighed about 50 pounds.
Aurora resident Thomi West, owner of the dog, said Reiter never yelled to close the windows until she had exited the vehicle.
West said her dog jumped out the rear driver’s side passenger window. She said she cannot understand why her dog was shot.
“That is so unfathomable to me,” she said. “We used to have a joke that if a burglar came into the house, Pele would lick him to death. He wasn’t a mean dog.”
Riewaldt said Reiter and West were the only two people present when the dog was killed.
No charges had been filed against West, but Riewaldt said charges might be forthcoming.
“We are reviewing what the appropriate charges would be,” he said.
Aurora resident Jennifer West, who is Thomi West’s daughter-in-law, said the family is in shock after the dog’s death.
“He was the sweetest dog,” she said. “My 4-year-old son, Jordan, grew up with this dog. It’s pathetic. They shot an innocent dog in the face.”
Reiter was unavailable for comment.
The police chief said he empathizes with the family.
“I love dogs. I have had dogs for years and years,” Riewaldt said. “But I would not want to be bitten by a dog. The use of force has to be reasonable and necessary. I believe it was both reasonable and necessary.
“This is being characterized as killing an innocent dog, but it was a pretty good-sized dog that could certainly damage a person,” he added.
“Hypothetically,” Riewaldt said officers may choose to instead kick a dog in the mouth, or Taser or pepper spray the animal.
“But if a Taser or pepper spray misses, it would be ineffective,” he said.
Riewaldt said dogs being shot by police are “extremely rare. I don’t remember anybody in the police department here ever having to do that.”