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Coeur d’Alene police chief apologizes to owner of dog shot by officer

Coeur d'Alene's interim Chief Ron Clark  called the controversial police shooting of a dog inside a parked van last week
Coeur d'Alene's interim Chief Ron Clark called the controversial police shooting of a dog inside a parked van last week "a regrettable tragedy" and said the matter is being fully investigated during the start of Tuesday night's City Council meeting in Coeur d'Alene. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Coeur d’Alene’s police chief called the controversial police shooting of a dog inside a parked van last week “a regrettable tragedy” and said the matter is being fully investigated.

At the start of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, interim Chief Ron Clark and Mayor Steve Widmyer addressed last Wednesday’s fatal shooting of the 2-year-old black Labrador named Arfee. The incident sparked a storm of criticism of the patrol officer’s actions.

“We as a city again want to offer our complete apology to Mr. (Craig) Jones,” the dog’s owner, Widmyer said. The city also will “take full responsibility” for the dog’s death if the investigation determines mistakes were made, the mayor said.

Clark said he reached out to Jones, a former Coeur d’Alene resident now living in Colorado.

“I told him how sorry I was about this incident,” the chief said. “And we had a good conversation. We discussed the entire situation and also about how it was unintended.”

Jones left Arfee in the van and returned to find a bullet hole through the window, which had been left partially open, and his dog missing.

In a news release right after the shooting, police said they were responding to a report of a suspicious van, possibly containing someone watching young children, near Eighth Street and Sherman Avenue. When an officer approached the van on the driver’s side, “a vicious Pit Bull dog lunged out the open driver’s side window toward the officer’s face,” the release said.

The officer fired, striking Arfee in the chest. Police removed the dog’s body and left before Jones returned to this van. Animal control officers misidentified the dog as a pit bull, and a veterinarian later confirmed it was a lab mix.

Jessi Johnson, who lives on Lakeside Avenue, said she witnessed the shooting and informed Jones what had happened.

“Everything that I witnessed appeared to be a complete cover-up,” Johnson said in emotional remarks to the council Tuesday. She added, “Everybody watched and nobody did the right thing.”

Another resident, Bruce MacNeil, said he wants Jones to know “this is an animal-loving community and I’m sorry for what happened.”

In his remarks to the council, Clark said, “I’m going to do everything I can to avoid anything like this happening in the future.”

He said the department’s investigation will be reviewed by the city’s legal department, the administration and an outside authority yet to be identified. The results will he shared with the public, he added.

The officer involved will be reassigned from patrol to office duty until the investigation and reviews are completed, Clark said. The city has withheld the officer’s name and the officer’s report on the incident.

Clark said he hopes the investigation can be accomplished in the next 2 to 2  1/2 weeks.

The chief also said the city’s 72 police officers are well-trained and handle more than 40,000 calls a year.

“Please don’t let one incident discount the quality of law enforcement that your department is providing on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

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