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Saturday, Jun 14, 2003County: Milwaukee
Disposition: Not Charged
Person of Interest: Chaquila C. Peavy
Valerie Mueller of Milwaukee not only saw her dog, Sprite, killed but was given a $120 citation for having Sprite outside without a leash. She has since filed a complaint with the city's Fire and Police Commission. Mueller, who has a cat, says the house is much quieter now.
Mueller and Sprite were in their backyard waiting on police to arrive at her home around 2 a.m. When squad cars arrived, Sprite bounded toward the officers. Seconds later, Sprite was shot in the head and killed.
"He fell over and flinched," said Mueller, who was standing about 10 feet behind Sprite when the officer fired. "To see him fall over flinching and die right there, it's just hard to explain."
To make matters worse, Mueller was issued a $120 citation for having Sprite outside without a leash.
Sprite, 6, has posthumously become the center of a Milwaukee Police Department investigation into whether lethal force was necessary to subdue a 38-pound cocker spaniel. Mueller has retained attorney Alan Eisenberg, who called the shooting "reckless." Police Chief Arthur Jones said the department is investigating to see whether the officer was in enough danger to warrant her actions.
Police responded to a 911 call reporting a man contemplating suicide at Mueller's house in the 4300 block of S. Logan Ave. around 2 a.m. Saturday. By the time officers arrived, the man - Mueller's friend - had calmed down.
Mueller and Dave Williams, another friend, took Sprite into her backyard to play with him until the police arrived. When they did, Sprite bounded into the front yard.
Officer Chaquila C. Peavy had just left her squad car when Sprite moved toward her, witnesses say. Seconds later, Peavy shot Sprite, Mueller and Williams said.
"I told them, 'The dog is harmless, don't hurt the dog,' " Williams said. "Three seconds later, they shot the dog."
'Then Peavy issued her the citation.
"I will fight that ticket," she said.
Mueller, a 33-year-old Milwaukee Public Schools special education teacher, has spent this week mourning the loss of her pet and companion.
When she steps out of the shower, she still looks down to make sure she doesn't trip over him. When she gets into bed, she misses him lying next to her. And, worst of all, when she comes home from school, he hasn't been there to greet her and give her a kiss.
Sprite was so much a part of her life that Mueller had his paw prints tattooed onto her right foot.
"He was my best friend," she said. "I did everything with him."
Peavy, 28, has been on the force since November 2001, police records show. According to Mueller, Peavy refused to identify herself at the scene after she shot Sprite, but Jones said Mueller and her friends never asked for the officer's name.
Jones said an officer can shoot a dog if the officer "reasonably feels that they're in danger."
As to whether an officer could feel threatened by a cocker spaniel, Jones said, "it just depends on the individual and the circumstances. We're going to look into it, there's no question. There will be an investigation."
Eisenberg filed a complaint Wednesday with the city's Fire and Police Commission, the first dog-shooting complaint the commission has received this year. Three people asked the commission to investigate police shootings of dogs in 2002, according to Executive Director David Heard.
Eisenberg also asked Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann to conduct a criminal investigation.
Police officers should have to prove pet killings are justified, the same as if a person were shot, said Jill De Grave, education director for the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee.
"Everybody has to be accountable for their actions, especially when something dies as a result," De Grave said. "The officer must have felt very, very threatened to pull the trigger."
De Grave suggested that the Police Department train officers to learn to spot the sometimes subtle distinctions in dog mannerisms to empower them to make better decisions. The humane society already provides dog behavior training to utility company meter-readers, postal carriers and other workers who may encounter loose dogs on the job. But Milwaukee Police Department officials have yet to approach the society for such classes, she said.
"Every police officer can benefit from training on handling dogs and reading behavior," De Grave said. But that's little solace to Mueller, who, along with her cat, Angel, now lives in a much quieter house.
"You don't know anyone who could use a bag of Iams dog food," Mueller said from her front porch. "I have a whole bag left."
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