http://www.chronicleonline.com/content/deputy-disciplined-shooting-dog

‘Excessive control’ earns officer reassignment and training
By Abdon Sidibe
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 12:01 am (Updated: January 17, 12:03 am)

A deputy who shot and killed a small dog last November used “excessive control” and is being sanctioned, according to the results of an internal sheriff’s office investigation.

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nick Hesse is getting a written reprimand and is being removed from the emergency response team. Hesse also has to undergo training with the sheriff’s office’s animal control officers and is being reassigned to the duty office of the Judicial Services Division because of the Nov. 19 shooting of a Jack Russell terrier named Princess, according to sheriff’s
officials.

“I never wanted him to lose his job or anything like that, but I am glad he is off the streets,” said Nancy Blackwell, the Inverness resident whose dog was shot.

“The internal investigation people were very good and fair and did the appropriate thing,” she added.

And, in a sad twist of fate for the Blackwell family, their son John, 34 — who Hesse was trying to locate to issue a warrant to when he fatally shot the dog — was himself found dead by his mother in the home early Saturday.

“It just seems like one bad thing after another is happening to us,” Blackwell said. She said her son, who was being detained in Kentucky when Hesse came for him, had returned to Citrus County on Friday and was going to turn himself in to authorities after the weekend. She said the cause of death had yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, a letter dated Jan. 6 by Hesse’s division commander, Capt. Buddy Grant, and later affirmed by Commander Wayne Burns, said Hesse “used poor judgment by making the decision to shoot and fatally wound a small breed dog while attempting to serve a warrant at the home of the dog’s owner.”

The disciplinary letter also noted that because of the potential for harm to the residents of the home, Hesse’s actions were not prudent.

According to Hesse’s statement to investigators, he arrived at the Blackwell residence shortly after 2 p.m. on Nov. 19 and noticed the house’s screen door was closed, but the front door was open. He said he also noticed two Jack Russell terriers barking behind the screen door. He said the dogs pushed the door open and came straight toward him.

Hesse said in his statement that he took several steps back from the barking dogs and the larger of the two dogs, later identified as Princess, was more of an immediate threat to him. At that point he shot and killed the dog.

Hesse said he did not remove his gun until the dogs exited the house. He also told investigators the only other defensive tools besides the gun he carried on his belt at the time were a taser and his collapsible baton. He did not have pepper spray and would not have had enough time to remove his taser from the holster, he said.

He told investigators he could have kicked the dog, but thought that would have been ineffective.

Nancy Blackwell has since been given a girl puppy Jack Russell terrier by their daughter. The puppy’s name is Patches.

“The other dog (Rascal) became very lonely after Princess was killed. He is now with the puppy,”
she said.

Chronicle reporter A.B. Sidibe can be reached at 352-564-2926 or asidibe@chronicleonline.com.