Adele Breeden says her 93-pound dog, Bro, was all bark and no bite.
If Salt Lake police officer Matthew Larson had known that fact, she says, Bro might still be alive.Larson was jogging on his graveyard-shift lunch break about 11:30 Monday night when he saw the labrador-mix come out of a parking lot and run toward him. Larson said the dog was barking, was wearing no leash or collar and he heard no one call to the dog as it ran at him.
"In this job you deal with dog behavior everyday," Larson said. "There's a difference between when a dog barks just to communicate. . . . This dog was definitely in attack mode."
Larson backed up, but when Bro kept coming and kept barking, Larson drew his department-issued handgun and shot the dog. He shot Bro three times before the dog fell, almost at his feet.
Breeden agrees that Bro was running free that night, like he always did when she took him out to run. She doesn't dispute that he was barking at something Monday night. But she said she did call out to her dog and said there's no way Bro would have hurt anyone.
"He didn't have a chance," Breeden said. "Immediately, I heard three shots. . . . (Bro) does bark, but he's an extremely friendly dog. . . . I believe Bro knew (Larson) probably didn't like dogs. This man, I believe, wanted to show his power as a police officer."
Larson said he's owned numerous dogs over the years and shot Bro only because he thought the dog was going to attack him.
But Breeden said she and Bro have traveled the same route for more than three years without any trouble.
There was one difference between Monday night and their normal routine. Breeden usually accompanied her dog on her bicycle, which enables her to keep up with him. Monday, her tires were flat so she was on foot. She was running with the dog but slowed to a walk just before the shooting.
As for running her dog without a leash, she said, "I know I'm doing the wrong thing. But I could never run my dog the way he needs to run (on a leash)."
She said he's never bitten anyone, including joggers, which are common in the area.
As for the future, Breeden said she wants to do two things: meet Larson and place a plaque on the tree where Bro died.
The plaque will say, "I dedicate my Bro to a more peaceful and loving spirit in mankind."
"I'm going to go to this man who killed my dog and forgive him," she said. "I want to tell him I'm praying for him. . . . I don't think (Larson) has love in his heart; I think he has fear in his heart.
"I guess that's what I want to come out of this," she said, "to search our heart and not our anger."
Breeden didn't file a complaint with police, but they have opened an internal affairs investigation anyway.
Assistant Chief Larry Stott said the Salt Lake Police Department has been inundated with calls from citizens outraged over news reports that an officer had shot the dog on a downtown sidewalk.
"We've had more calls on this than we did the last officer-involved shooting in which a citizen was killed," he said Wednesday. "When animals are involved, things are extremely emotional."