It can be difficult to get people to care about injustice, unless caring means "liking" on Facebook and the victim of injustice happens to be a sweet-faced, 50 pound dog.
Austin dog Cisco was shot by Officer Thomas Griffin on April 14 and the facebook page "Justice for Cisco" already has 41,000 "likes." Cisco's owner and self-described "best friend" Michael Paxton doesn't want to let this loss go without a fight and a fuss.
According to Yahoo News/Good Morning America, this is how Paxton remembers the day that Officer Griffin came to his home, responding to a report of domestic violence which turned out out to be the neighbor's house:
As [Paxton] approached his truck, he said he saw something from the corner of his eye and looked up to see a police officer who immediately drew his weapon and told Paxton to put his hands up.
"He had a Taser. He had pepper spray. I don't understand why, in broad daylight, he pulled a gun on me. I wasn't running. I wasn't hiding," Paxton told ABCNews.com today. "I was just saying, 'I live here.' I was panicking. I was afraid for my life."
Paxton said he heard Cisco, who weighed about 50 pounds, barking and coming towards him from the backyard.
"I said, 'Don't shoot him. Don't shoot my dog. He won't bite you.' But he shot him, just like that. It all happened in under 30 seconds," Paxton said. "There was no attack on the officer other than barking and challenging him."
Paxton said the officer said he was responding to a domestic issue report of a man choking a woman. Paxton does not have a girlfriend and believes the report came from his neighbor's house.
Paxton said the officer did not apologize and when his sergeant arrived, he was unsympathetic and told Paxton the officer was within his right to shoot the dog. He said he has not heard from the police since the incident.
"I was in shock for probably almost 24 hours," Paxton said, choking up. "I wasn't crying at that point, but when I picked my dog up out of the driveway, I lost it."
The local NBC News reports that the officer feels bad:
"(Griffin) is distraught about this," said Sgt. David Daniels. APD says there is an internal review every time an officer's firearm is discharged. Griffin is still on duty and APD would not answer questions about why a firearm was used instead of a taser….
"We are not going to second guess our officer," said Daniels who says officers can use force when they feel physically threatened by an animal.
But Griffin doesn't really sound distraught in the moment, if you listen to the audio from the police cruiser dashcam. Soon after leaving his vehicle, Griffin begins to reach towards his gun. Then he's off-camera, but the audio continues.
The officer yells "Show me your hands! Show me your hands!" Paxton yells "don't shoot my dog!" The officer yells "Get back! Get back!" Paxton yells "What are you doing? What did you shoot my dog for?"
After Officer Griffin fires his gun, Paxton yells "I live here!" several times and the officer screams back "Why didn't you get the dog?!" and "Why didn't you get your dog when I told you to get your dog?!" The news narrator says he sounds "shaken," which could be true. But he's definitely also screaming at a man at whom he needlessly and suddenly pointed a gun, and whose pet he just killed.
Perhaps more to the point of wider worries over police conduct, Officer Griffin, appeared abruptly in Paxton's
yard, gun drawn, and gave the homeowner three conflicting commands in a few seconds; he told him to show his hands, he told him to get back, and then almost as he fired his gun he yelled "get your dog!" Then he asked why Paxton didn't get his dog. You don't have to love dogs to realize that that doesn't bode well for police interactions with human beings either, especially if the police are in a situation where they have more reason to believe someone might be armed. Giving conflicting commands to suspects, then firing? That's how people die. Not to mention, there are 72 million pet dogs in the U.S.. Police officers have no business not having at least a rudimentary understanding of what threatening behavior by them looks like.
And killing a dog is more serious even than busting down a door or breaking a gate. You can buy a new door (or ideally the police would pay out of their own pockets for your new door, if they were in the wrong). It may just be an animal, or mere property to some, but the owner can't go out and buy the exact same dog they had before. It's not pure sentimentality to think that maybe people should get a little more compensation and a real apology for their loss. When you hear Paxton yell "Why did you shoot my dog?!" it's hard not to be reminded of the Columbia, Missouri drug raid that went viral in 2011. The man in that video yells about his dog with the same cadence and a the same freaked-out bewilderment.
Paxton intends to keep making noise about his dearly departed, furry friend; An online petition to have Officer Griffin "reprimanded" already has 10,000 signatures.