A Chicago-area police officer who fatally shot a young dog in front of its 6-year-old owner on Friday was fired on Monday. Witnesses said the dog was not provoking the cops before it was shot.
Police dispatch in the Chicago suburb of Hometown, Illinois received a phone call on Friday from the dog’s owners that Apollo, a 16-month-old shepherd mix, got out of the family’s yard, and they requested assistance in finding him, Police Chief Charles Forsyth said in a statement on Facebook. The officer ‒ identified by the Justice for Apollo Facebook page as Robert Norris ‒ located the dog and followed him back to his home.
Norris reported that, while attempting to coax the dog back into the house, the dog turned, growled and approached him in a threatening manner. He then withdrew his service weapon and fired one shot, striking the dog, the chief said.
But Apollo’s owner says the dog was never aggressive and did not lunge at the responding officers. She said he didn’t get defensive until Norris pulled out his gun.
“We were in the lawn and the cop already had his gun out,” owner Nicole Echlin told WMAQ. “I tried to call him in the house and he just stood there staring and I guess he showed his teeth and the cop just shot him, right in front of me and my 6-year-old daughter.”
Witnesses agreed with the owner’s account. “They never tried to control the dog, the dog wasn’t moving,” one told the NBC affiliate.
“The dog wasn’t doing anything. I didn’t see it doing anything, it wasn’t barking,” said witness and area resident Nicco Torres. “Then I saw a cop shoot the dog, the dog fell to ground on the lawn. I saw through the window the dog was on the floor shot but the dog was still moving, it was moving its legs like it was trying to run but it was laying down.”
“I don’t know why they would pull out a gun they had so many other options,” said Echlin's 23-year-old sister and fellow owner Kristy Scialabba, who works at an animal care center in Chicago. “And to shoot a dog in front of a child that’s going to scare her for the rest of her life.”
Apollo was taken to Scialabba’s workplace, Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge, where he died on Saturday morning.
Echlin said her daughter “screamed” and “fell to the floor” after Apollo was shot between the eyes. "That's going to be in her head probably forever," she told the Chicago Tribune.
On Monday, Norris was fired, Forsyth announced on the Hometown Police Department’s Facebook page. “Although the Officer may have been justified under the Illinois Use of Force statute governing deadly force, I have made the decision to terminate that [officer’s] employment with the Hometown Police Department,” the chief wrote. “In addition, all reports and witness statements will be forwarded to the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit to be reviewed.”
"I'm heartbroken. That was my best friend. It was also my niece's best friend (and she is) traumatized," Scialabba said to the Tribune. "It should have never happened."
In response, she started the Justice for Apollo Facebook page, created a petition calling for Norris to be fired or punished for shooting the dog and planned a protest of the Hometown PD, which has since been cancelled after the officer was terminated. “Apollo got his justice,” Scialabba wrote on Monday.