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Palacios police shoot, kill family dog

By Bianca Montes
March 5, 2014 at 8 p.m.
Updated March 4, 2014 at 9:05 p.m.

Knight, an 11-month-old Labrador retriever mix, was shot by officers with the Palacios Police Department on Feb. 27. The owners say the dog was spooked by officers shooting at other animals in the backyard when he broke loose from a chain.

A dog owner wants justice after her 11-month-old Labrador was shot, killed and left to die by an officer of the Palacios Police Department last week.

Returning from the Matagorda County Fair on Thursday night, Tiffany Garcia-Duran said she and her family were devastated to find one of their dogs was missing.

Knight wasn't an outside dog, she said. He was a puppy that typically slept indoors.

That night, however, Garcia-Duran, 29, said she left him chained and on his leash in the backyard with their other dogs.

Garcia-Duran said there's a bar in the alley behind her home, and she's had previous problems with people breaking into her yard.

"We've had stuff stolen from our backyard," she said. "We keep dogs back there to keep people out."

According to a Palacios Police Department report, officers responded to a call about a large, aggressive dog loose near Sixth and Main streets, about a block from Garcia-Duran's home.

A 37-year-old woman complained the dog was chasing her, according to the report. Garcia-Duran isn't buying the story. She said the passer-by was probably just startled by the barking.

"We've been called at least three different times about their dogs," Police Chief David Miles said, explaining he previously spoke to the family about its dogs being loose.

A leash law in Matagorda County states dogs must be leashed or fenced in such a way that they do not run free.

"When officers arrived, they were confronted by that dog," Miles said. "The officer fired three times."

Miles said officers couldn't find the dog after shooting it, and he was unable to confirm if they attempted to contact the family afterward.

"When we got home, he wasn't there," Garcia-Duran said. "I was screaming, looking for him, and our neighbors came out and said there were two officers in our property, and they heard gunshots."

She was shocked.

"I called the police," she said. "I called them when I thought Knight was missing, and they said nothing."

The police department does not have a policy to notify an owner if officers shoot his or her dog, Miles said, but it does try to notify owners as a courtesy.

He said he's unaware whether animal control was called to assist with the incident.

Animal control officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

"Our policy is to use the least amount of force necessary," Miles said. "The officer tried to avoid the situation by using a nonlethal amount of pepper spray."

Unfortunately, he said, it wasn't enough "to control the dog."

Garcia-Duran said she later found an unspent bullet near her back door, leading her to believe officers shot at her dogs in the backyard. Knight, she said, was probably spooked and broke away from his leash. She believes he was running from the officers, not toward them.

Garcia-Duran found Knight's remains the next day. He was still wearing his broken leash.

"It just breaks my heart because I feel guilty that I was not there for him," she said. "I've done my share of crying. I just think he needs justice. It wasn't fair, especially if he was running."

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