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Police: Officer’s actions in ‘Arfee’ shooting violated department policies

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 5, 2014, 5:05 p.m.

The owner of a two-year-old Labrador mix shot by a Coeur d’Alene police officer will file claims against the officer and the city in the dog’s death, which a review board said violated department policy for use of deadly force.

Craig Jones, the owner of Arfee, has retained a Bellingham attorney, Adam Karp, in the case.

“I think everyone, even from the police side in this tragedy, agreed that this is a violation of Mr. Jones’ civil rights,” Karp said in a phone interview Friday.

Karp is known for raising the bar on pet compensation. Last year, he obtained a $100,000 settlement for a family whose pet Newfoundland was shot four times with an assault rifle by a Des Moines, Washington, police officer while it was running loose.

“If the city is thinking that the matter would resolve for the cost to adopt a dog at the Kootenai County Humane Society, that’s a non-starter,” Karp said.

Arfee was shot on July 8 by Officer David Kelley through the partially opened window of a parked van. The incident sparked a storm of public criticism.

City officials called a Friday press conference to release the results of the Deadly Force Review Board’s investigation. Kelley was named as the officer involved in the shooting at that time.

The events unfolded on the morning of July 9, when Jones parked in the shade behind Java, a coffee shop on Sherman Avenue, and went inside for breakfast. He left the dog in the van with the window partially rolled down.

Kelley and another officer were responding to a report of a suspicious van in a possible child enticing case when they approached Jones’ van around 11 a.m. Kelley said in his report that he was afraid of being bitten in the face by the dog that lunged at him through the window.

“In this particular incident, all board members agree Officer Kelley feared for his safety and used deadly force to protect himself,” said the review board’s report.

However, Kelley didn’t appear to consider his location – the crowded parking lot behind Java, the report said. He was firing toward an intersection and residential neighborhood. The other officer, whom Kelley was training, was on the other side of the van and tinted windows obscured the line of sight.

Kelley’s shot hit Arfee in the chest and went through the dog. The bullet was contained in the van, police said.

“The potential for injury to citizens, including a potential suspect in the vehicle, does not appear to have been factored in to the decision prior to using deadly force,” the report said.

There was no evidence that the dog was going to jump out of the van, according to the report, which said that Kelley could have backed off and reassessed how he would approach the van. His actions violated police department policy, the report said.

Kelley did not turn on his body camera when he approached the van, which is also a violation of department policy.

The Deadly Force Review Board is made up of three members of the Coeur d’Alene police department and a member of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s department.

The board’s conclusions were duplicated by an internal police department review and an outside review by a member of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

Kelley is a 17-year veteran officer, including seven years with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. He has worked with police dog trainers as an agitator, someone whom the dogs are taught to chase and bite.

Kelley is still employed by the police department. City officials would not release information about potential disciplinary actions, citing city personnel rules and state exemptions from public disclosure laws.

During Friday’s press conference, Police Chief Lee White said the dog shooting has shaken public confidence in the department and that he’ll be working to rebuild that trust.

The department will develop policies related to use of force against animals, and officers are now required to watch training videos on handling dog encounters. White said he will also approach the City Council about adding citizen advisory members to the Deadly Force Review Board.

White took over as police chief on Tuesday after moving here from Mesa, Arizona. He described Kelley as a “man of honor and integrity” who was deeply affected by the events.

“The merits of the police department should not be judged on a single incident,” White added, noting that officers respond to more than 40,000 callsyearly.

At Friday’s press conference, White also addressed the police department’s initial news release about the shooting, which described the dog as “a vicious pit bull.” The next day, a second press release corrected the breed as a lab mix.

Misidentifying Arfee as a pit bull fanned the public’s distrust in the department’s handling of the shooting, White said. The mix-up occurred because an animal control officer thought Arfee was a pit bull based on the dog’s muscular build and short hair. A veterinarian later identified Arfee as a Lab-mix, with possible pit-bull heritage.

Officers won’t name breeds in the future, based on the potential for wrong identification, said Capt. Ron Clark.

Department officials also addressed the officers’ decision to remove the dog’s body from the van and leave a note for the vehicle owner. Jones returned a shot time later to find a bullet hole through the window, Arfee gone and blood in the van.

The officers tried to find the van owner, Clark said. But Java’s owner told them that the van had been sitting in the same spot for hours and the owner wasn’t a restaurant patron, he said.

Clark said that the city worked to release the results of the shooting investigation as quickly as possible. Jones was uncooperative, which slowed the investigation, he said. In addition, an individual who claimed to witness the event later refused to talk to investigators, which also created delays, Clark said.

The city has offered to purchase Jones’ 1999 Ford van and will be talking to his attorney about a financial settlement, said Mike Gridley, the city attorney.

A handful of citizens attended Friday’s press conference.

“I’m glad they didn’t justify the shooting,” said Chris Kunishige, who was at the press conference with his wife, Tina.

The couple has been following news about the shooting and said they were impressed with the new police chief’s handling of the situation.

A Facebook page called “Justice for Arfee” said the 11:45 a.m. Sunday walk in Arfee’s memory will still take place. The walk begins at Java and heads to City Hall.

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