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Owner of dog killed by SLCPD posts video of first encounter with police

Published June 27, 2014 7:44 am

Questions • Many wonder why the shooting happened.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A video posted to Facebook late Wednesday night shows Sean Kendall confront Salt Lake City police officers on his front lawn minutes after his dog was shot dead by an officer during a search for a 3-year-old boy last week.

The video begins as Kendall, 27, drives back to his home in Sugar House shortly after learning on June 18 that his dog had been shot.

"About fifteen minutes [ago] I got a phone call from Utah animal control calling to tell me that an officer had shot and killed my dog," Kendall says to the camera. "He was inside the backyard in a fenced off area."

Then he asks the question that has remained largely unanswered since his Weimaraner, Geist, was fatally shot in the head last week: "What was the cause for an officer to shoot and kill my dog?"

The officer remains on duty while the police department conducts an internal investigation. The department has revealed little information about the June 18 shooting except to say that the dog acted aggressively when the officer entered its backyard as he searched for the missing child.

"I wasn't in that situation. The officer did what he did in the moment to avoid being bitten, possibly," Det. Greg Wilking said in an interview Monday.

Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah, said Thursday that the organization is following the case closely and hopes to soon see results of the police department's inquiry.

"Our main concern is why, when there are so many non-lethal alternatives available (pepper spray, tasers, batons, etc.), this officer chose to use deadly force as his first go-to option," Baierschmidt said.

Meanwhile, the seven members of the Salt Lake City Council have sent a letter to Police Chief Chris Burbank expressing their sorrow over the shooting and their hope that an independent review by the Police Civilian Review Board will help supplement the department's internal investigation.

"We request that both investigations be thorough and deliberate with the results released to the public as soon as possible," the council members told Burbank in the letter.

The council also asked Burbank to "educate" the public on the policies of searching for a missing child, and said it is "hopeful that unintended consequences such as this can be avoided in the future."

The missing boy was found safe inside his own home about a half-hour after the search began.

Kendall — who met with police officials Monday — has said he will not be satisfied unless the officer is fired.

In the video, which can be viewed at sltrib.com, Kendall arrives at his home to find three police officers and an animal control officer on his front lawn. He angrily demands to know why his dog was killed.

"I can explain the basic circumstances, and that is, he entered the yard looking for a lost child. He was threatened by the dog, and he shot the dog," responds Sgt. Joseph Cyr, who Kendall would later credit for his compassion and empathy. "That's a simple as it gets."

"He was threatened by the dog?" Kendall asks. "So, backing up slowly and leaving the residence is not an option?"

Police have not identified the officer who shot the dog to the media, but when Kendall asks for the officer's name, those on the scene identify him as "Officer Olsen."

During the video, Kendall becomes increasingly enraged and upset. The officers remain calm and professional while expressing their sympathy.

"Thanks officer, have a good day," Kendall says as he begins to sob at the end of the video. "I need to go bury my dog."

hstevens@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Harry_Stevens —

"Justice for Geist"

The dog-owning community can show its solidarity for Sean Kendall and his dog, Geist, by attending a rally on Saturday, June 28th, outside the Salt Lake Police Department's headquarters at 475 South 300 East from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to The Humane Society of Utah.