LEANDER, TX — Leander Police went to the home of James and Renata Simmons acting on a warrant for unpaid vehicle registration on June 17, 2013. The warrant, however, was for a completely different town – Cedar Park, TX, and was for a person named Bradly Neal Simpson, someone the Simmons family, who have lived at this address for the past nine years, have never even heard of.
Officers walking around the rear of the property saw Vinny, a German Shepherd therapy dog, running free within his fence along with another German Shepherd. Police fired at Vinny, firing 3 times with one bullet hitting him in the back of his neck.
According to KVUE News, Police spokesperson Lt. Derral Partin said the dogs were growling and closing the distance very quickly. He defended his officer who fired the shots, saying “We’re trained to fire until the threat is stopped.” He said it’s the policy of their department to use lethal force on any animal they think is attacking.
Lt. Partin also tells us that his department’s first line of defense against animals is deadly force, rather than less-lethal alternatives. A recent Justice Department report, titled “The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters” which is available for download as a PDF document from the National Canine Research Council (NCRC), makes it clear that only insufficiently trained officers use deadly force as a first line of defense.
Renata Simmons had a different view of what the dogs were doing. “The dogs always do the same thing, they’re like ‘hey somebody’s here’ and they go running up to the gate like ‘hey pet me.’ Well they didn’t get pet this time, they got shot.” Simmons is a professional dog trainer for “Find. Love. Train.” Mrs. Simmons says there were people coming and going from the property every day, and Vinny has never showed signs of aggression, but would go up to meet new people just like any dog would.
During this shooting, the Simmons’s terminally ill six-year-old grandchild was playing just around the corner. Renata worries what would have happened if the child had gotten in the path of the bullets. Police claim not to have seen the child.
Vinny survived the gunshot wound to his neck, which racked up vet costs of about $1,500 for the Simmons family. Their attorney filed a claim with the city’s insurance company on behalf of the family to recover that money, which was recently denied on August 15, 2013, with the city claiming that they’re not responsible for what their officer did, according to Elisa Black-Taylor of Examiner.com. The attorney now plans to file a lawsuit against the city as well as the Leander Police Department on behalf of the family.
The department has since announced “dog behavior training” for their officers to prevent future incidents. It’s too bad the officers missed this article from “Law Enforcement Today” warning officers not to shoot dogs or else be possibly subject of a lawsuit.
The family has set up a Facebook Page for support, where they are also accepting donations towards Vinny’s vet bills the city is refusing to pay, which can be found here: Justice for Vinny.
Contact information for the Leander Police Department is as follows, let your voices be heard so that we can try to put a stop to law enforcement’s seemingly endless shootings of non-violent family pets.
Leander Police Dept.
705 Leander Drive
Leander, Texas 78641
Additional source: Dog shot with terminally ill child present by police at wrong address