MILLERSBURG — When Elkhart County Patrolman Michael Daly pulled up to a pole barn to follow up on a call Saturday, two dogs ran up to the car.
Daly responded playfully to the dogs after he opened his car door. “Get out of my car, come on, get out now. It’s OK, come on, come on now,” he said, making a clicking noise with his tongue.
When he shut the car door, the snarling started. Ten seconds later, Daly came into view of his car’s camera, backing away from the dogs with his gun drawn, and he fired one shot.
That’s what showed on the video recording Sheriff Brad Rogers played this morning, April 13, for area media representatives.
The dog’s owner, Josh Bender, came out and saw his dog and the officer with a drawn gun and said, “Did you just shoot my frickin’ dog?”
Daly responded, “He was coming after me.”
Bender said, “What the frick is wrong with you?”
Daly again replied, “He was coming after me, OK?” Bender said to Daly, “Kill him now. Kill him now,” though no more shots were needed to end the dog’s suffering.
Another man walked out of the pole barn at 14260 C.R. 36 and said, “What did the dog do to you?”
Daly told him, “It was jumping on me, baring his teeth.”
After stopping the video, Rogers said, “It’s apparent that the officer made an assessment that the dogs were not a threat when he got out of the car. He was talking softly to them, coaxing them. Then, when he shuts his door, the situation is escalating.”
The video and audio recording “leaves no doubt of the dog’s behavior and the officer’s actions,” and there will be no discipline against Daly, Rogers said. “That doesn’t mean there is not lessons we learned.”
In hindsight he said it would’ve been better for Daly to wait in the car and honk to get the occupants to come out of the building and talk with him.
That’s exactly what Bender thinks should’ve happened. “What’s a dog bite to you? Is that going to kill you? I don’t think so,” said Bender, who’s seen the video. “If you don’t want a dog bite, stay in the car.”
He said Charlie, a mix between a Labrador retriever and red heeler, an Australian shepherd dog, was “merely protecting its property.
“I have a right to have a dog out on my property, not bothering anybody,” Bender said.
“I don’t want to disrespect the police. Not all police officers are like that. I just want to put an end to that. We can’t have that happening. They’re police officers, this is not a life-threatening situation,” he said.
The sheriff said, “I’ve ordered immediate training of all our police officers to be able to assess and judge behavior of dogs.”
Daly has dogs at home, Rogers said.
“Officer Daly loves dogs. I love dogs. It’s not something we take lightly,” he said.
“That family lost a loved one that day,” Rogers said. “This is a tragic situation. I would’ve been upset, too. It’s a difficult situation.”
Bender called it a “sad situation.” While it’s not quite as bad as losing his father and his brother, “it’s part of your family, someone you give your heart to. When you gave your heart so something and it’s ripped away ... the image I have in my head, to have that happen right in front of me, it just makes me sick.”
The video won’t be released for public viewing because it could be inflammatory, Rogers said, and he wants to move to the healing process for the family and for the department.
Bender said he’d like to see Daly disciplined. “In my job, if I mess up, I get scolded for it, I get suspension, I get pay docked, or fired,” he said.
Rogers said if he believed the sheriff’s department was in the wrong, he’d own up to it.
“If we are wrong, I’ll tell you. We’ll face up to the music and we’ll be held accountable,” Rogers said.
Rogers also posted a detailed response to this incident on the sheriff’s department’s Facebook page.