Body cam video released, shows officer shooting dogs in yard
The police union defended Officer Michael Mays, contending that the first dog growled as it advanced toward him
By Paul Walsh and Sarah Jarvis
MINNEAPOLIS — Body camera video from a Minneapolis police officer who shot and seriously wounded two dogs in a residential backyard not only shows the best view yet of the animals’ temperament and movements during the encounter, but the officer is heard moments later apologizing to a sobbing resident while declaring his love for dogs.
The shootings on the night of July 8 behind the home in the 3800 block of Queen Avenue N. also were captured nearly in their entirety on residential surveillance video, which Jennifer LeMay, the dogs’ owner, posted on Facebook, quickly leading to hundreds of thousands of views.
The Police Department has yet to take a position on officer Michael Mays’ actions while he responded to a false security alarm call at the house, only noting that he is under investigation and that officers will be trained on how to best handle encounters with dogs.
Mays’ initial report filed that same night contended that the dogs, which he described as large pit bulls, “charged at” him. The police union defended Mays, contending that the first dog growled as it advanced toward him.
LeMay and her attorney, Mike Padden, have scoffed at that version of events, and have called for Mays to be prosecuted for filing a false report. They also suggested Mays be disciplined, possibly even fired.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon in north Minneapolis, where Padden made the officer’s body camera video available to other media outlets, the attorney said the imagery makes it obvious that Mays shot with the intention to kill.
No camera audio early on
As Padden had the video shown on a screen behind him, LeMay was at his side and turned away at the sight of seeing her first dog shot.
In Mays’ body camera video, the first dog, Ciroc, does not appear to be charging and is shot while slowly walking with tail wagging. After the gunfire, the second dog, Rocko, runs straight toward Mays before being wounded.
As for any growling directed at the officer at the incident’s outset, that was not picked up on Mays’ camera because the devices, when not manually activated, are always on for video only. It’s only when an officer activates it manually that the device goes back and captures the previous -- and silent -- 30 seconds and then records video and audio until turned off.
Padden alleged Thursday that the officer took “full advantage” of the lack of audio early on “because he knows in the first 30 seconds his audio isn’t activated.”
In a supplement to his initial report stating the dogs charged at him, Mays said, “After firing the first shot, I observed a larger size blue nose pit bull come rushing towards me from inside the residence.”
Mays’ initial report offered a “different story” from the supplemental information because, Padden alleged, the officer learned about the surveillance videos and was attempting to corroborate his story with what was revealed on camera.
Padden went on to make a connection with body camera use in this case and the lack of any at the time Justine Damond was fatally shot by a police officer in southwest Minneapolis on Saturday. He said there should be “no more excuses” for officers’ devices not recording images and sound.
“I know that some people in law enforcement are capable of, at times, engaging in conduct that knows no bounds from the perspective of audacity,” Padden said.
‘Sorry about this’
Once the audio on Mays’ camera captures sound, he is heard saying, “I dispatched both of them,” first Ciroc and then Rocko.
The camera shows the officer reaching up and scaling a wooden fence and making his way to the front door, where he speaks with LeMay’s 18-year-old daughter, Courtney Livingston, who came home early from a family trip because she had to work the next morning.
Fighting sobs, Livingston explains how she put in the wrong code for the home’s security system, leading to the police response.
“Hey, I’m gonna sit there and say sorry about this,” Mays tells her. “I don’t like shooting no dogs. I love dogs, so ... it’s unfortunate. Are they A-OK?”
Livingston says she’s not sure and points out that “I have blood all over my house, and they’re both walking, that I know of.”
Ciroc and Rocko will require thousands of dollars in treatment for their wounds. Police Chief Janeé Harteau offered her department’s help in paying the bills. That gesture was met with a cool response from Padden, who said the offer came after the family had to put up money before the dogs could receive medical care.
LeMay said the Police Department’s response to the incident was similar to its response in the November 2015 shooting death of Jamar Clark -- “PR B.S.” about implementing mandatory training.
“Either you get more experience, you get more training, or you get out [of the police force],” LeMay said.
©2017 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)