Officer Michael Richards shot the dog, a pit bull mix, while responding to a home alarm in south Tracy.
Caitlin Cotton said she returned to the home she shares with her boyfriend, Bradley Martin, and his mother at 2236 Stalsburg Drive a few minutes after 3 a.m. Sept. 15. She had forgotten her key and entered through a window, which set off an alarm.
Richards responded to an alarm report from security firm ADT at 4:23 a.m., after attending to other higher-priority calls, and knocked on the front door.
“I opened the door because I thought it was my boyfriend coming home,” Cotton said. “My dog ran on the front porch, was barking at him.”
Richards heard the dog behind the door and said loudly, “Get your dog,” before the door opened, according to the officer’s official description of the events obtained by the Press. Richards backed away from the door and into the front yard.
“He didn’t state who he was. Didn’t tell me he was police,” Cotton said. “I saw the gun pointed at me when I opened the door.”
Richards wrote that he felt threatened by the white pit bull mix, named Johnny Blaze, and fired three shots at the dog. One of the bullets hit the dog in the chest. The dog then ran across the street and died.
Neighbors who did not wish to be identified for privacy concerns said they heard gunshots and Cotton screaming.
“I was very upset,” Cotton said. “I was screaming. I kept saying, ‘You shot my dog. I hate you. I’m going to sue you all.’ I just kept saying stuff like that.”
Richards called his supervisor, Sgt. Dean Hicks, to the home, which is standard procedure when an officer has fired his weapon, according to Tracy police spokesman Lt. Mark Duxbury.
Hicks wrote in the official report that Cotton and Martin, who returned home after the shooting, were so upset “that it was going to be futile” to explain what happened. Hicks ordered Richards, and another officer who showed up, to leave.
“I think the sergeant made a good call to leave the scene at the time, due to the fact that there was threats being made by some of the parties on scene toward the officer’s safety,” Duxbury said. “Instead of having to take legal action, which he could have done based on the comments made, he decided the best thing to do was defuse the situation.”
The officers left behind the shell casings ejected from Richards’ gun when he fired at the dog.
Hicks returned to Stalsburg Drive with another Tracy police sergeant and four other officers at 9 p.m. that same day — roughly 16 hours later — to interview neighbors about what they heard and saw.
“The sergeant that was supervising the investigation (Hicks) came back on duty that evening and coordinated the additional follow-up,” Duxbury said.
Duxbury said the shooting is now the subject of a firearm review board. The board is led by a representative of the special operations division and includes representatives from the patrol division and firearms training section and a patrol supervisor.
The process will be completed by the end of October, according to Duxbury, who said Richards remains on full duty.
Duxbury said the dog owners had not filed an official complaint with the department as of Monday, Sept. 23.
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at 830-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.