SNOWFLAKE — A Snowflake-Taylor Police officer shot a one-year old German Shepard on August 15 in front of a young mother and her four children while responding to a false alarm at a home according to Destiny Cates, 35 of Snowflake. The dog survived after treatment in the Valley. The police department said the dog had “attacked” the officer who had no choice but to shoot it.
Cates is the married mother of seven children, age three to 16, and is the proud owner of a “smart” wristwatch which has an “SOS” feature on it. At around 10 a.m. that morning, Cates said, the watch was charging on the mom’s nightstand when her six-year-old son decided to play with it. Seems the boy activated the SOS feature on the watch and an emergency alert went to every one of Destiny Cates’ emergency contacts including her parents in Vernon and a sister in law in another state. The recipients tried to contact Destiny, but the watch was on “vibrate,” while charging and she was busy with one of the other children at the time and was unaware of the alert, she said.
Also living at the home along with the Cates family, was four legged family member, Hazel, a one-year-old German Shepard which Destiny calls her “eighth child.” According to Cates, when her out of state sister in law could not get through, the relative alerted a Cates’ neighbor who went to the house to see what was up. The neighbor arrived shortly before an Officer Shelton of the towns’ police department responded to the home as well, said Cates.
In a press release dated September 9, Snowflake-Taylor Police Chief Robert Martin said that the department received a “911 hang-up” and sent an officer out to the home when police dispatchers were unsuccessful in reaching anyone at the residence.
Cates, four of her children and Hazel were in the living room with the curtains open. They were able to see the front of the house. Hazel is “not a vicious dog at all,” said Cates. At one year old, the animal “gets excited,” she said, but has exhibited “no aggression at all.” According to Cates, when the officer approached the front door, Cates opened it and Hazel ran to the door and barked. According to Cates, the officer backed up, pulled out his gun and shot the dog who was outside by that time, but a mere five feet away from the one of the younger children inside. Cates said that the officer shot twice and hit the puppy once under its left ear. It was discovered later that bullet exited the dog’s body at its shoulder. Apparently, the second bullet missed but despite an investigation by the STPD, and Mr. Cates looking for it with a metal detector, the second bullet has not been found, Cates said.
Chief Martin received different information about the incident. The press release stated that “The officer knocked on the front door at which point it was opened and officer was immediately attacked by a large German Shepard.” The dog was soon at the officer’s feet, the press release said, and the officer feared for his safety. “The officer quickly and safely drew his firearm and shot the attacking dog.” stated the release.
After Shelton shot the dog, Cates said he looked astonished and exclaimed, “Do you understand what just happened? I discharged my firearm!” Cates said the officer then repeatedly asked “Is everybody OK?” Meantime, the dog had slouched back into the house bleeding from its mouth, the children were all crying and Cates said that she was thinking, “Not in a thousand years would I believe that he pulled out a gun.” After all, she said, the officer had pepper spray and a Taser.
Martin acknowledges how quickly the matter unfolded (less than four seconds, he said) and believes that “the residents had no idea that the officer had to shoot the dog,” the press release read.
Meanwhile, another neighbor who reportedly works for the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, had seen the whole thing from his house nearby and had put out a call for an emergency veterinarian. Cates herself had called a local animal clinic and left the house with the dog and one of the kids. The local vet, whom Cates identified as Dr. DeSpain, said the clinic didn’t have the equipment to properly diagnose Hazel but applied first aid to the dog which included medication and one stitch at the shoulder, enough to allow drainage which the vet expected to happen.
The doctor arranged for a clinic in Gilbert to see Hazel right away and Cates and her 16-year-old, who can drive, took off for the Valley. But first, she returned to the home and Officer Shelton had left. In his place was a Sergeant Adams, she said, who remarked that he had just completed the “investigation,” and drove off with no further word to Cates. While mom was at the vet, the other kids had been watched by the NCSO employee from the neighborhood. The bullet that is believed to have passed through Hazel’s body was found in a “mushroomed” condition in the mud outside the front door, said Cates.
So Cates, the 16-year-old son and Hazel drove to the Gilbert clinic where X-rays revealed bone fragments inside the dog’s throat area. Mom and son stayed in a hotel for two nights there and returned to Snowflake with Hazel the following Tuesday, she said. By that time, the dog was drinking and eating and was tentatively cleared for discharge. The Gilbert clinic charged Cates $495 to start and told her the total bill would be between $3,000 and $5,000.
Once back in town, Cates said that she has been reaching out to a police sergeant and lieutenant as well as the chief of police to discover what exactly happened and who’s going to pay the bills. She was told that Officer Shelton had a body camera which recorded the incident but said that she hasn’t seen it yet. Chief Martin told the Independent in an email that the footage is available to view. Meantime, Cates said Hazel is doing alright but now starts shaking when she hears any loud noise, even thunder.
Chief Martin concluded the press release by stating: “However in this instance we believe there was no other possible outcome that would have resulted in the officer or anyone else being unharmed. We are grateful that the dog survived and was able to return home after surgery.”