A Baton Rouge police officer who was suspended for violating the department's use of force policy when he fatally shot a dog during a robbery call is planning an appeal of the disciplinary action to the 19th Judicial District Court, according to his legal representation.
Officer Abraham Wilson III's original 10-day suspension was reduced to five days after an appeal in mid-February by the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, but Wilson still believes his actions were justified, said Sgt. Myron Daniels, with the Capital Area President of Magnolia State Peace Officers Association, who represented Wilson.
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But based on the body camera video from the incident and the internal investigation, Chief Carl Dabadie determined the shooting was unnecessary. The Advocate obtained that video from February 2016 when Wilson responded to a robbery victim in the 5400 block of Adams Ave., soon leading to the shooting.
But Daniels said Wilson did exactly what officers are taught by trying to protect human life.
"He placed himself in harms way for those citizens that were outside (and the robbery victim)," Daniels said. "He neglected his own safety.
When Wilson pulled up near the intended address of the robbery victim, he saw two pit bulls that appeared aggressive and loose running toward his patrol vehicle, neither of which had collars and one had bite marks, according to Wilson's incident report. Wilson then saw the victim emerge, who had been hiding under a neighbor's house, the report says. Wilson tried to position his vehicle to protect the man from the dogs, the report says.
Wilson exited the vehicle with his body camera on and used a Taser and mace to deter the dogs, the video shows. He asked neighbors who were outside two houses down if they knew whose could control the dogs, but got no response, his incident report says. Wilson calls for back up and animal control.
Wilson mutters, "You know what? F--- it," and then fired his Taser again. Wilson then tells the victim to get into his vehicle for safety, still holding the Taser up to the barking dogs, the video shows.
The victim is able to enter the vehicle, as the two dogs continue to bark at Wilson. The dogs soon retreat back toward the house, but within seconds one comes running back at the officer. The dogs again retreat, get distracted, but then approach Wilson again, the video shows. One of the dogs approaches Wilson at the closest distance yet, from about eight or 10 feet away, according to the investigative summary of the incident. Wilson backs up and pulls his weapon, again muttering a profanity. The dog then lunges closer, but stops. After the dog stops, Wilson shoots the dog, which dies in the driveway.
Wilson shot the dog in the head within about three minutes of getting out of his car, the video shows. There were neighbors "almost aligned with his line of fire," investigators wrote in the investigative summary, but Wilson said he aimed at the ground.
After the complete investigation, Dabadie wrote in Wilson's disciplinary letter on May 5 that, “there was clearly ample opportunity for you to retreat from the territory that the dogs were protecting.”
He also wrote that, “Nothing precluded you from backing up slowly or getting into your police unit.”
Dabadie wrote that deadly use of force should be a "last resort" and Wilson's “use of foul language right before the shooting indicated that you were tired of the situation and wanted to get it over with, instead of shooting because of an immediate and imminent threat.”
But Wilson is steadfast that he was in imminent danger and leaving would have left the aggressive dogs unattended to the public, according to his interviews during the investigation.
"Knowing the risks the pit bulls posed to the victim, as well as to the spectators and community in general, Officer Wilson placed himself in the best position to protect and serve the public by moving toward the dogs while sparking his Taser," said Daniels in a statement.
"After more than a quarter of a minute had passed, the most aggressive of the two pit bulls growled and charged Officer Wilson, leaving him no choice but to fire his weapon out of fear of receiving great bodily harm," Daniels said.
The Civil Service Board voted against a complete overturn of the 10-day suspension, but chose to substitute it with a five-day suspension.
"It was just really complicated," said Civil Service Board Chairwoman Julie Cherry. "I think that at the end of the day the Chief's assessment that the decision making could have been better (was accurate)."
Dabadie declined to comment on the Municipal Civil Service Board's decision. His initial discipline for Wilson was a 10-day suspension and a Use of Force retraining.
The dog owner eventually was contacted, and officers and animal control determined that the dogs did not have the required proof of vaccination for rabies, registration certificates or proper restraints, according to the incident report.