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St. Clair Shores

December 19, 2013

Mayor says city may review police actions in dog shooting

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

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Those protesting the death of a dog on Princeton Street in November wore shirts bearing her image to the Dec. 16 City Council meeting.

Dozens of people packed City Council chambers Dec. 16 not to discuss the lone agenda item — no parking signs near a school — but to express their frustration and outrage over the death of a mixed-breed dog in November.

According to St. Clair Shores Police, a call came in around 3 a.m. Nov. 22 about a dog running loose in the area of Yale and Princeton streets, allegedly “menacing the neighborhood.”

Four hours later, the dog was on a porch on Princeton Street “acting aggressively toward the officers,” who were unable to catch the dog and who shot the animal when it reportedly charged at them. A press release from the St. Clair Shores Police Department said, “The officers were forced to use deadly force as a last resort to prevent injury to themselves and any other citizen in the area.”

But supporters of the dog, Lexie, and her owner, 19-year-old Brittany Preston, allege that the police shot a dog that was simply protecting its property from strangers and was sitting on its own front porch.

“There are no indications that Lexie ever left the property. Perhaps (the police) should have grabbed the pepper spray first, and we would not be here today,” said Nicole Bammel, of St. Clair Shores. “I am completely disgusted by our animal control officer.”

“The St. Clair Shores Police Department absolutely needs training in animal capturing behavior,” said Marianne Courey, chair of the St. Clair Shores Dog Park Committee and board member of Angels Supporting Animals. “The first shot struck Lexie in the jaw … rendering her helpless to bite anybody, yet the police kept shooting. Lexie was on her property at the time she was taken.”

Courey said that food could have been used to try to get the dog to come home, or the Macomb County Animal Control department could have been called for assistance. The fault for the incident, she said, lies with the fact that St. Clair Shores Police have not received any training in animal behavior. 

“When the officers did realize Lexie belonged in that yard … why did they not leave?” asked Sherry Sirey, of Chesterfield Township. “With officers away, I feel Lexie would have ran into her home.”

She also took issue with the fact that the dog, after being shot, was dragged to the animal control truck.

“He should know better,” she said of the officer. “I do understand not all officers are bad, (but) they need education as to how to handle animals.

“I do feel the animal control officer needs to lose his job.”

City Council members told those gathered that they were there to listen to suggestions for future handling of loose animals.

“I think people are open to hearing ideas about things we can do, skills training, equipment,” said Councilwoman Candice Rusie. “If you have any ideas … (to) improve their ability to do their job, to stay safe, to do a good job for the residents, I think everybody’s open to that.”

Mayor Kip Walby said he appreciated residents’ suggestions of having a third-party investigate the incident and possibly evaluate police training and procedures.

“I don’t think St. Clair Shores has ever tried to hide,” he said. “We try to be transparent and talk about our issues and the problems right here.

“We will listen to these suggestions, and we’ll try to make it better.”

But Councilman Peter Rubino cautioned against painting the entire Police Department with the same brush.

“This past summer, we had a Rottweiler loose on my block. For two days, I couldn’t let my kids out. A police officer … found the owner a block and a half away and got the dog returned safely,” he said. “We had a police officer crawl out on the lake ice to save a dog that was on the lake.

“To, over one unfortunate incident, to label an entire police department as trigger-happy … is not only unfair, it’s downright wrong.”

Walby said the matter would be discussed more at the next meeting of City Council in January.

“The point is for this body to make our departments, our people better — our city better,” he said. “We care about St. Clair Shores. We care about our animals, we care about our children, so we care about what’s right.

“We will respond and work accordingly. We will not just brush something away.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.