The officer who shot and seriously wounded two dogs over the weekend in a north Minneapolis residential backyard responded properly and in line with his training, the police union said Wednesday.
In a lengthy statement, Sherral Schmidt, vice president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, noted that the first dog that officer Michael Mays encountered growled and slowly advanced on him before he "made the difficult decision to fire his service weapon upon the pit bulls to prevent injury to himself."
Mays' actions Saturday night in the fenced-in yard on the 3800 block of Queen Avenue N., where he was responding to what turned out to be a false burglary alarm, were captured on resident Jennifer LeMay's surveillance video, which did not include audio.
LeMay posted the video on Facebook, leading to hundreds of thousands of views, a flood of donations to cover the animals' medical expenses and a call from the family's attorney that Mays be disciplined and prosecuted for falsely contending in his police report that the dogs "charged at" him.
"This incident has solicited numerous suggestions about how the officer should have handled the situation and Monday morning quarterbacking [of] his actions," the union official's statement read. "It is easy to judge an officer's actions from the safety of one's home with the ability to replay the video over and over. In this line of work, officers need to adapt and react to situations in the blink of an eye."
Schmidt added that Mays "adapted and reacted correctly and in accordance with his training to safely end this tense, rapidly evolving situation regarding the two pit bulls."
The video starts with Mays already in the backyard, then walking forward out of view of the camera for a few seconds. He then is seen in retreat with his gun drawn. One of the dogs, Ciroc, is seen trotting toward the officer, stopping briefly and then walking toward him, tail wagging.
That's when Mays shoots the dog, sending Ciroc to the ground briefly before the dog runs away. Mays then shoots Rocko as that dog bounds toward him.
LeMay and her attorney, Mike Padden, have contended the video contradicts Mays' police report saying the "two large size pit bulls charged at" him. Padden noted that the prospects for Ciroc, who was shot in the face and jaw, have deteriorated. "It's bad," he said of the dog's prognosis. She has "significant injuries which will greatly affect her future quality of life."
In response to the union's telling of events, Padden said Wednesday that "there is absolutely no evidence on the surveillance video to suggest that either dog was aggressive. ... This is another example of a police union again revealing that when it comes to the conduct of police officers in the field, they completely lack objectivity."
The Police Department has yet to respond to the union's version of the encounter and its defense of the officer.
Police Chief Janeé Harteau has said there would be an internal investigation into the incident and training begun for officers addressing how they should best handle encounters with dogs. Harteau did not pass judgment on how Mays responded.
Mays was wearing a body camera, police said. The Star Tribune has made a formal request for that video.
In a letter to Harteau that Padden submitted Wednesday through the city attorney's office, the family's lawyer said his client "is perfectly comfortable and supportive ... that your agency release publicly the body cam video. ... This video will assist with the location and movement of the second dog who was shot, Rocko."