Eden police officer accused of shooting dog while off-duty

http://www2.godanriver.com/news/2011/may/22/eden-police-officer-accused-shooting-dog-while-dut-ar-1055370/

An Eden couple is still wondering exactly what happened after finding their son’s dog shot dead in a neighbor’s yard.

Bobby Ritchie said he was watching a NASCAR race May 14 with Neko, a two-year-old, 70-pound American bulldog boxer mix, sleeping between his legs. He and his wife Linda Ritchie were watching Neko and Zoe, a rescued black lab mix, for their son Chris Ritchie while he was on vacation.

Bobby said decided to take his son’s two dogs and his dog across the street to his mother’s house so they could run in her fenced-in backyard. He said this was something he had done on many occasions, without a leash. Around 6 p.m., his dog went into the backyard while Neko and Zoe were playing and started to chase each other through the neighborhood.

“I was right behind them, chasing them, and they were just at the top of the second street,” he said. “I thought they crossed the street and ran over to the golf course area, so I ran back into the house where my wife and her friend were sitting and told my wife to get her car keys because Chris’s dogs got away and they’re running in the neighborhood.”

After driving down the street in her car, Linda said she came back to her house to retrieve her cell phone just in case Bobby called with news of finding Neko and Zoe. When she got back to the house, she found her friend on the front porch asking, “Who was doing all that shooting?”

“I said I didn’t hear it, but as soon as she said it, I knew the dog had been shot,” Linda said. “My friend said she heard the shots as I was backing out of the driveway to look for the dogs the first time. That’s how fast it happened.”

Linda said she pulled up at the last house on the left on Camellia Lane because that’s where her friend said the shots were heard. She said she found a lady standing in the driveway talking to someone when she asked her if she had seen a brown and white dog come by.

“She said she had seen the dog but that he wasn’t there, so I asked her which way he went, and that’s when she said wait a minute and got her husband,” Linda said.

According to Linda Ritchie, Eden Police Officer Jamie Buffkin came outside in his police uniform and asked her if she had a pit bull. She said she told him no, and he asked what he was.

“I told the officer, ‘He is an American bulldog pit bull mix, not a pit bull,” Linda Ritchie continued. “That’s when the officer said, ‘I thought he was a pit bull – I shot your dog.’ I just immediately fell apart.”

When asked why he shot the dog, Linda said Officer Buffkin told her Neko lunged at him.

“This is the most gentle dog in the world and he has never lunged at anyone; he has never been in a dog fight – he’s a house pet,” Linda said. “He told me if I got my husband, he would let us come back and get the dog. He also said, ‘I didn’t shoot the black one.’”

Linda said went over and got Bobby Ritchie and told him what happened. Bobby Ritchie said he didn’t realize how many times Neko had been shot until he picked him up to bring him home.

“After I laid the dog in our driveway, I went back over and asked the officer how many times he shot the dog. He said four times because the dog kept lunging at him. There’s no way the dog could keep lunging at him (after being) shot that many times. So I lost it. I got real upset and said some things to the officer I probably shouldn’t have, because he asked me to leave his property.”

A citation was written to the Ritchies for a city ordinance violation of a dog running loose. According to the incident report filed with the Eden Police Department, Buffkin said the dog charged at him while he was on the back porch. Buffkin said two dogs, one black and one brown and white, had cornered his dog on his back porch. According to the report, he said he tried to move the dogs on, but when he walked out the door, the dogs started barking at him. Buffkin said the brown and white dog then charged at him.

The report states Buffkin fired four shots from his .40-caliber Glock off-duty weapon. It also states the dog then turned and went out into the yard and laid down. There are no mentions of bites, cuts or bruises inflicted by the animal in the incident report.

The Ritchies said there are many discrepancies in the police report and the story they were told by Officer Buffkin the night of the incident.

“If the dog wandered off his deck and went down and flopped down in the yard after being shot four times, I would assume his head would be pointing away from the deck,” Bobby said. “The dog was laying in the yard with his head pointing toward the deck. He also didn’t mention anything about him thinking the dog was a pit bull in the police report.”

Linda Ritchie said she may have seen a different perspective if the officer had offered any type of apology.

“He has yet to apologize to any of us,” she said. “If he had been a little more remorseful, I might feel a little differently. But it was just like ‘He’s a pit bull. I shot him. Take it or leave it. It’s my yard.’”

Linda Ritchie said they have contacted the officer’s superiors at the Eden Police Department, Eden’s city manager and two councilmen. She said they are also considering hiring an attorney, but will wait to see if the city will offer a thorough investigation into the events.

According to the City of Eden Code of Ordinances, a vicious dog is defined as: “Any dog that has made one or more unprovoked attacks on a human by biting or causing abrasions or cuts of the skin, or any dog who makes repeated attacks on farm stock or pet animals.” An at-large dog is defined in the Code of Ordinances as off the property of its owner and not under restraint.

Linda Ritchie formally addressed city council members at Tuesday’s meeting about the incident. City Attorney Erin Gilley advised against any council members or city employees speaking about the situation. She said the police department is currently conducting an investigation and the results are pending.