Las Cruces police are releasing more information on an incident that occurred Monday, June 28, on Willow Street and resulted in the unfortunate death of a large-breed dog as officers responded to a welfare check.
About 2:20 p.m. on Monday, June 28, the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority, the 911 call center for Las Cruces and most of Dona Ana County, received a call from a man who requested a welfare check on a relative. The man told the call-taker that his relative had not slept in six to seven days and may have suicidal ideations.
The man told the call-taker that he owns several big dogs and that he would “corral” them. Near the end of the call with 911, the call-taker reiterated concern for the dogs and asked the man to put them away. The man said he would. Information about the dogs, and that their owner would confine them, was passed along to the two officers who responded to the welfare check.
Two Las Cruces police officers were dispatched to the welfare check.
Video recorded on the officer’s body-worn camera shows the officers enter a gate into the man’s yard. The video shows a large-breed dog aggressively exit the home and charge at the officers. The officers appear to retreat a short distance before one of the officers fired three rounds at the dog. The video also shows another large-breed dog running toward the officers, but it takes a different route and stops short of both officers.
Investigators reviewed the 911 call made by the dog’s owner to confirm he requested a welfare check on a potentially suicidal relative. The Las Cruces police officers were dispatched as is protocol. Investigators also confirmed that the caller did not request that police call him before their arrival.
Investigators interviewed several neighbors to the incident and found no other eyewitnesses to the incident other than the two LCPD officers.
Investigators learned the property that officers responded to is divided into three separate yards. Officers responded to the caller’s yard since that is the address he provided to central dispatch. It was later determined his relative, the subject of the welfare check, resides at the same address but next door.
“It’s very unfortunate when an incident such as this, involving someone’s pet, occurs,” said Las Cruces Police Department Chief Miguel Dominguez. “Our officers face many dangerous obstacles during the course of their duty day, and we expect them to stay vigilant and safe. Our community depends on them.
“Our beloved canine companions provide a level of security by alerting owners of potential dangers or intruders,” Dominguez said. “This incident is unfortunate for all involved and especially for the owner of the deceased dog. We ask that all pet owners do their part to keep their 4-legged friends safe by taking the necessary precautions when first responders are summoned to their home.”
The Las Cruces Police Department has these tips for pet owners who request a response from police, fire, EMTs or any other first responders:
- Humanely kennel or temporarily restrain your pet – particularly dogs that can be aggressive or assertive toward strangers – before first responders arrive on scene.
- If possible, keep pets temporarily confined to a separate yard, room or living quarters while first responders are on scene.
- Ensure that pets cannot escape their yard or quarters.
- Ensure that pets always have an adequate supply of fresh drinking water and shade in their permanent and temporary quarters.
- Have a plan in place, beforehand, on who can care for your pets in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as a sudden absence, medical emergency, hospitalization, etc.
- Make sure the person responsible for taking care of your pet during an unforeseen absence has vital information such as feeding schedules, medications and veterinarian contact information.
- If you live alone with pets, leave caretaker contact information in a visible location within the home so first responders or Animal Control can reach them if you become incapacitated or otherwise have to leave pets unattended.
- Keep pets up to date on vaccinations.
- Ensure that pets are chipped or wearing a collar that clearly identifies ownership and contact information.
The Las Cruces Police Department released a short, 7-second video clip taken from the officer’s body-worn camera that shows the moment of engagement. As a matter of courtesy and respect for all dog owners, the video is cut prior to the first shot that was fired.
Investigators determined a photo that appears to show LCPD officers laughing – a photo taken by a bystander several minutes after the incident and later circulated widely on social media – did not depict officers laughing at the death of the dog. The officers were simply reacting to a misunderstanding from a supervisor who was not yet on scene.
No charges are expected to be filed in this incident. The officer who discharged his duty-issue firearm has four years of experience in law enforcement and has been with the Las Cruces Police Department since November 2020. He is expected to return to his regular duties later this week.
The subject of the initial welfare call – the relative of the man who called 911 – showed no threat to cause harm to himself or others. He refused all offers of assistance and transportation for medical assistance.