Recently released body camera footage from the police department in Arlington, Texas, shows an officer fatally shooting a woman lying behind a shopping plaza after taking aim at her medium-sized, unrestrained dog.
The officer had been dispatched to perform a routine welfare check on the woman, Maggie Brooks, who was reportedly homeless and a regular at the shopping center in question. Footage shows the cop walking toward Brooks and asking her, "Are you OK?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Brooks replies. The dog then trots toward the officer. Although the video makes it clear that the animal presented no threat, he nonetheless fires three shots toward the dog as Brooks lies mere feet away.
"Get back!" he yells at the dog, while opening fire.
"Oh my God!" Brooks screams after the officer inflicts the fatal wound. "Police shot me!"
As she cries out in agony, the officer moves back toward her and tells her to "get ahold of her dog."
At a news conference, Police Chief Will Johnson said the 30-year-old Brooks suffered a fatal wound in the "upper torso." The dog, weighing 40 pounds, was also struck and is currently in quarantine.
The officer on duty—who graduated from the academy this past February—is on administrative leave while the incident is under both criminal and departmental investigation. He underwent eight hours of training on encounters with canines prior to assuming his role.
While that training clearly didn't prepare the cop in question for the routine welfare check, he is not alone in using deadly force against animals who present no imminent danger. The Department of Justice estimates that 25 to 30 dogs are killed per day in what they call an "epidemic." As I wrote last week:
In Detroit, Michigan, 54 dogs were killed in 2017 alone. "The rise occurred at the same time Detroit is trying to fend off lawsuits from residents who say police wantonly killed their dogs during drug raids," wrote Reason's C.J. Ciaramella in September. In St. Louis County, a woman received a $750,000 settlement after a SWAT team killed her dog during a raid on her home over an unpaid gas bill.
Human bystanders are sometimes caught up in the officers' reckless behavior. A federal court recently ruled that Deputy Sheriff Matthew Vickers of Coffee County, Georgia, is protected by qualified immunity for his role in shooting a 10-year-old child in the knee while firing at a nonthreatening family dog.
Larry Hamilton, an acquaintance of Brooks, described her as a devoted caretaker to her pet. "She was a real loving person to the dog. Really caring, and you know, always made sure the dog was fed before she did," he said. "She was a good-hearted person."