Debate rages after St. Louis County deputy shoots family's dog
Jason Jacobs said he had no choice but to suffocate his badly injured dog, Rugar, as he held him in his lap. "I was just crying my eyes out," the rural Aurora man said. "I just covered his nose. He just drifted away." Jacobs said the loss of his ...
Jason Jacobs said he had no choice but to suffocate his badly injured dog, Rugar, as he held him in his lap.
"I was just crying my eyes out," the rural Aurora man said. "I just covered his nose. He just drifted away."
Jacobs said the loss of his pet of seven years has been made more painful by the circumstances of the pit bull's death.
The dog was shot July 8 by a St. Louis County Sheriff's deputy who had come to serve legal papers at the home of Jacobs and his wife, Angie Jarvis.
No one in the Sheriff's Office disputes that Deputy Chris Cazin shot the dog. The deputy said in a police report that he shot in self-defense as the dog lunged at him. His superiors agreed with his account.
Jacobs and Jarvis say their dog wasn't the type to attack -- but if Cazin did feel threatened, he had options beyond shooting him. They say the Sheriff's Office has poured salt in their wounds by what they call a callous response to their questions about the shooting.
"We wouldn't be so upset if there was some kind of sympathy," Jacobs said. "He just shot our dog and left him suffering."
"I don't apologize for the actions (Cazin) had to take," Sheriff Ross Litman said.
A police report was filed as policy because Cazin discharged his weapon, Litman said. The report says the camera in Cazin's car shows the dog coming at the deputy, but the shooting was out of the camera's range.
Jacobs and Jarvis said they were not home at the time.
Jacobs' Facebook post about his dog's shooting by a sheriff's deputy prompted an outraged response.
And, as social media goes, a lot of misinformation has been offered and gobbled up.
"The online and public reaction has been basically outright lies," Litman said this week.
Litman said his deputies deal with dogs often in their duties and they rarely use a gun on one. He said Cazin had no other option.
"The dog lunged," he said. "The deputy shot him."
Cazin said the dog ran off into the woods and he searched to no avail. He left a notice on the door handle of the home telling the homeowners to contact the Sheriff's Office for a non-emergency matter, the kind typically left when a deputy comes to serve papers and finds no one home. Cazin said he didn't write anything on the door hanger about the shooting.
Cazin did not respond to a message seeking comment left by the News Tribune on his cell phone.
Jacobs and Jarvis said they had been away on a grocery trip for about 35 minutes and came home to find Rugar by the house, bleeding. Jacobs said the dog had been shot in the nose, through the throat and into his paw.
After calling a veterinarian and consulting with his wife, who is a nurse, Jacobs said he put Rugar out of his misery.
Here is how the incident transpired, according to the police report:
Cazin saw Rugar and the Jacobs' other dog, a boxer-like mixed breed, barking in front of his squad car as he drove the quarter-mile down the driveway just before 10 a.m. that Sunday.
Jacobs said Cazin was delivering a court judgment against Jarvis to pay a medical bill. St. Louis County court records show it was for $1,800.
Cazin parked with his squad car facing the home. Camera footage confirms that the dogs remained in front of the squad car, barking. Cazin waited in his car "for some time" until the smaller dog came toward the driver's side of the car.
Cazin said he got out of his car and the smaller dog came up to him and acted friendly.
The pit bull still acted aggressively, Cazin said. The report says the camera footage confirms this, though much of the action takes place off-camera past the driver's side of the car as Cazin tried to approach the home.
As Cazin began to walk toward the home, the pit bull came to the front of the car, barking and snarling, he said. He said he yelled at the dog but it would not back down.
Taking another step, the dog began walking toward him, Cazin said. He then decided to take his Taser from his holster and shoot it into the air, often an effective way to scare off dogs, Litman said.
Cazin said the dog retreated slightly, but stopped and moved toward him again when the deputy started walking. He shot the Taser two more times and the dog retreated to the passenger side of the car.
The Taser records were downloaded Monday and show that Cazin fired it three times in a matter of 14 seconds at 10:01 a.m.
Cazin does not carry pepper spray, the incident report said. He relies on his Taser for protection outside of his firearm.
As Cazin made his way to the house, Rugar came around the squad car and advanced on the deputy again, coming to within 6 feet of him, the report says. Cazin said he yelled again but the dog continued and went into a "crouched position and charged at me."
Cazin said he waved the papers he was trying to deliver at the dog and he stopped a few feet away. The dog repeated his charge and Cazin fired his gun. The dog "yelped and reared back" and then ran off, Cazin said.
He searched for the dog but couldn't find him, and he cleared the scene at 10:20, the report says.
After his dog died, Jacobs called dispatch and asked about the shooting.
At 12:30 that afternoon, Cazin called Jacobs.
Cazin said in the report that Jacobs and Jarvis were on the line "asking why I killed the dog." The deputy said he tried to explain, but as Jacobs got more upset, Cazin advised him to speak to his supervisor.
The report says Jarvis spoke with Lt. Ed Kippley later in the day and arranged to come to the Virginia office Monday.
The couple met with Kippley and Investigator Robert Tarr in the afternoon and they asked for the report on the shooting, records of the Taser discharges, and any camera footage from the deputy's car, but Kippley said none of the information had been processed yet.
The conversation was recorded and an account written by Tarr was in the final police report.
Jarvis said she believed Cazin was lying about the threat of the dog and his efforts to find him after the shooting, Tarr reported.
Tarr told the dog's owners that Cazin probably thought the dog died in the woods. He said that a deputy would not "maliciously shoot a dog." Tarr said he told the couple that Cazin had acted professionally.
"Based on Deputy Cazin's description of the incident, he was justified in shooting the dog," Tarr wrote.
Jacobs said the conversation in Virginia lasted about 10 minutes and they haven't heard from the Sheriff's Office since.
Jacobs continues to say that "it doesn't add up" when it comes to the police account of what happened.
Not a threat?
He said Rugar was gentle despite his imposing looks. He said he was simply protecting his home from a stranger.
"He barks at every car that comes in," he said. "He's never bitten anyone."
But Jacobs acknowledged that the dog could appear threatening. Rugar once forced a visiting conservation officer from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to retreat into a pickup bed.
Jacobs asked why the deputy didn't just leave when he had the chance.
"He should have just turned around," Jacobs said.
"Did he have an opportunity to retreat? I don't know that," Litman said. The sheriff said it could be reasonable for Cazin to assume he was out of danger when the dog moved away after the Taser shots.
"I understand where they're coming from," Litman said of Jacobs and Jarvis. But, he said, "the officer was in a very difficult position."
Litman said there is no specific policy in the department regarding confrontations with dogs. It falls under training on "use of force," he said. He said the warnings Cazin gave to the dog were proof of the deputy's training.
Litman said that what's been lost in the social media chatter is what his deputy is feeling after the shooting.
"He's got dogs himself," Litman said. "I'm sure he feels bad about it."
"I really don't know what to do about it," Jacobs said when asked if he planned any action against the Sheriff's Office.
For now, he is mired in frustration at how the couple has been treated.
"He was very rude to us," Jacobs said of the initial call to Cazin. "I just think this cop was a jerk. ... That's what angers me."