“Officer Gilkerson has a tremendous love for animals,” Chief Whitehead told toledoblade.com. “At no point in our careers as officers do we hope to pull a firearm and have to shoot anyone or anything. I hope people take into consideration that this is unfortunate for everybody involved, but it was a decision that officer had to make within a split second.” Yes, well . . .
In April, 2013, Officer Gilkerson and his then-new K-9 partner, Raider, greeted members of the public. In response to a question, he told the crowd, “I have been afraid of dogs my whole life that I don’t know. I’m comfortable with dogs I do know.”
So where does that leave us, considering that this dog-fearing K-9 officer shot Moses the chocolate labrador as it approached the spot where he was conducting a traffic stop? Let’s rewind for the official account of the incident in question.
Officer Steve Gilkerson stopped a vehicle in front of Lockport Transportation at 875 E. Main St. for speeding at about 11:30 a.m. Police said a loose chocolate Labrador retriever ran directly at the officer, who was backing away, and the dog did not stop or change course when yelled at twice.
“The officer, in fear for his safety and the safety of the two subjects who had exited their car, fired one round from his department-issued weapon, striking the dog thereby ending the threat,” police Chief Roy Whitehead said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
The Lab, named Moses, was struck in the right foreleg.
The occupants of the car stopped by Officer Gilkerson have a different perspective.
Robin Cook of Clyde was driving the vehicle that had been pulled over, and she consented to a search at the request of Officer Gilkerson. She and her boyfriend exited the car, leaving her 2-year-old daughter inside.
She said Moses walked up to the scene with his tail wagging, sniffing the ground and her car tire. She said the officer pulled his weapon and pointed it at Moses, then yelled. She said the dog looked up only after being yelled at.
The officer “just shot and didn’t give the dog a chance to do anything,” Ms. Cook said, estimating it was 6 or 7 seconds from the time the officer pulled his gun to the time he fired. “I was in shock.”
Ms. Cook said Officer Gilkerson went back to his cruiser for about a minute, then returned and told the couple he would not search the vehicle.
“He told us to leave,” she said, saying they stayed awhile because she was too emotional to drive.
Her daughter also witnessed the event, and was talking about the dog being shot, bleeding, and needing to see a doctor.
“She talked about it all day [Monday],” Ms. Cook said. “I just don’t want her to be traumatized. She loves animals. She was white and was breathing heavy, like she was scared and didn’t know what to do.”
Here’s the kicker: the department has cleared Officer Gilkerson of wrongdoing, despite the fact that the department didn’t interview any of the witnesses (there was another bystander).
If pyscho-killers “warm-up ” by torturing animals, what can we say about police officers who shoot dogs who don’t need shooting? And when will police receive training in dealing with dangerous, indeed, all dogs?