Filer Residents Urge Firing of Dog-shooting Cop

2014-03-13T22:15:00Z Filer Residents Urge Firing of Dog-shooting CopBy Mychel Matthews -- mmatthews@magicvalley.com Twin Falls Times-News

FILER -- The vast majority of residents commenting at a Filer City Council meeting Thursday night said Police Officer Tarek Hassani should be fired.

All but three of the 27 people who voiced their opinions to Mayor Rick Dunn and the council said they no longer feel safe in Filer.

“I don’t want a cop that’s scared of a dog — or anything else — and whose first instinct is to draw a gun,” said Filer resident Annie Blass.

On Feb. 8, Hassani shot and killed “Hooch,” a black Labrador running loose in a west Filer neighborhood. The dash-cam video from Hassani’s cruiser, first posted on Magicvalley.com, sparked a national outcry.

Since the shooting, complaints about Hassani’s behavior have surfaced.

The council met Thursday evening to hear citizens' views and will meet again Tuesday to decide what action to take regarding Hassani.

Clint Blackwood told the council he has had several “run-ins” with Hassani but has never been cited.

“He antagonized and belittled me,” Blackwood said. “He was aggressive and intimidating with his bullying behavior. Hassani has a history of abuse and aggressiveness. Filer residents deserve better.”

Blackwood’s sentiments were echoed often during the hour-long meeting.

“I wish Hassani was sitting here tonight to hear (the complaints),” said Ryan Magnelli, a two-year resident of Filer.

Three people said they support the officer's action.

“I saw the video,” said Lori Leary. “I think it’s the dog owner’s fault.”

Robert Powers, a retired police officer whom Hassani trained, said he was shocked by what some people have said about the officer.

The Filer Police Department offers “no real training in dealing with dogs,” Powers said. “And (officers) have never been issued any (animal control) equipment. It’s hard to blame the officer when they don’t get any training or equipment.”

“I don’t think this is simply a case of a dog being shot,” said Cynthia Black. “This is someone who is out of control, someone who cannot control his actions. He’s a loose cannon.”

“I’m afraid to call the police in case this officer were to respond,” said resident Nancy Kestie.

Rebecca Mills Sojka, a Twin Falls councilwoman, also addressed the Filer council.

“Obviously people have lost faith (in Hassani),” she said. “The citizens are calling for justice. It’s outrageous that an officer sworn to protect the public could shoot this dog.”

Copyright 2015 Twin Falls Times-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. nicholebell
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    nicholebell - March 15, 2014 7:30 am
    What I find most amusing about this story is the "feeeeelings" issue. So many people saying they don't FEEEEEEEL safe. I emphasise that because it's exactly how Rush Limbaugh and most conservative commentators used to say it (to make fun of 'libs' that used their feeeeeeelings to make decisions about anything. And here, in Republican Land, so many people rely on their feeeeeeelings to justify their actions/desires. It's just funny, you know?
  2. instant
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    instant - March 14, 2014 5:38 pm
    I moved to Filer 3 years ago with my very large & sometimes aggressive dog & have had the privilege of knowing & dealing with Officer Hassani on many occasions & never have I been treated with anything but respect. This officer has been to my property many times & has never had anything but a positive encounter with not only myself but what society has branded a viscous breed dog. But I as an owner of what is considered a viscous breed animal is responsible for keeping that animal under control which means I have to have the dog in a nice big run or by my side at all times when he is out of his pen. I myself am an animal lover & would never want my faithful companion hurt in anyway so I am a responsible dog owner! This so called axe to grind has maybe gotten out of control calling for the officers to be fired & run out of town, has it really turned in nothing but a witch hunt! I have read articles calling this officer a Muslim terrorist REALLY is this just a racial profiling incident. It looks like it has become anything but about an animal being shot.
  3. Lady Ladybug
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    Lady Ladybug - March 14, 2014 4:15 pm
    I cannot speak for anyone else, but when I spoke last night, I had no axe to grind at all. I've never had a personal encounter with officer Hassani and I did not know his name or have preconceived notions before this incident came to light. Everything that has been revealed through this incident, including all from the many stories of many different people to the treatment of the dog before the shooting to his behavior toward the gentleman after the shooting, has convinced me that this man lacks the empathy and professional control of his anxieties that are crucial components of being in charge of a firearm on a daily basis and dealing with people who are often likely under stress or trauma while he deals with them. I do not wish Hassani any ill will, I do not harbor any hatred for him or wish bad things upon him, I'm sorry his position is in jeopardy, but as a Filer resident, who is a single mother and feeling that I and my child are secure and safe because I don't have anyone but the police to help me is very important to me, I am not at all comfortable that this man is in my town in a position of authority with a weapon and an apparent temperament demonstrating eagerness to use it. I would not trust him to treat me with respect or innocentuntilprovenguilty during a traffic stop, especially as a soontobe concealed carry holder. I would actually fear his approach to my car window. He should be in a position that does not require weapon use or work with the public and I hope all involved are able to find a better place for him to offer his attributes. I want other officers to come to my home when I or my child need help, I would hesitate greatly before calling for help if I knew Hassani would show up and if he can't even figure out how to speak kindly to attempt benevolent connection with a common behaving dog, I am not confident he could treat my daughter with any professionalism or competence if he were to respond to her call for help, especially if she were frantic or upset. No axe to grind whatsoever, I just do not feel he has the necessary behavioral qualifications needed for his current position and it is time the city recognizes this and acts upon it.
  4. bassettlvr
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    bassettlvr - March 14, 2014 3:54 pm
    Maybe she lives in the area.
    or maybe her office received lots of complaints in hope that someone would listen to them.
  5. farmergirl
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    farmergirl - March 14, 2014 3:34 pm
    Have you considered that this might not be ruining someone's life but rather insight into the fact that law enforcement is probably not the right profession for Tarek Hassani? I have had conversations with individuals who have shared their experiences with being pulled over by Hassani. He is a bully; he's uses his position to verbally abuse people and subject them to unnecessarily rude and rough treatment. Why haven't they all filed charges in the past? Because they are afraid to. They fear no one taking them seriously and doing anything about it and they fear repercussion. As "out of control" as Hassani sounded and appeared in that video, I don't blame them That is why it is very important that the City Council do the right thing here. The citizens need to be assured that someone does care and that the matter won't be just swept under the carpet. Do you want Officer Hassani ending up spending his life in prison? His luck is going to run out. Have you gone on-line to see the publicity this has drawn. All it would take is a poor outcome for the nation to take up the call and create a war fund for Mr. Clubb to fight this thing. Filer could be left in ashes. Is that what would be best for your community?

    On, and in response to your pack mentality issue; I have been there. I had a group of "good ole boy" neighbors take me to court over issues they created. I won!
  6. Lady Ladybug
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    Lady Ladybug - March 14, 2014 2:55 pm
    I cannot speak for anyone else, but when I spoke last night, I had no axe to grind at all. I've never had a personal encounter with officer Hassani and I did not know his name or have preconceived notions before this incident came to light. Everything that has been revealed through this incident, including all from the many stories of many different people to the treatment of the dog before the shooting to his behavior toward the gentleman after the shooting, has convinced me that this man lacks the empathy and professional control of his anxieties that are crucial components of being in charge of a firearm on a daily basis and dealing with people who are often likely under stress or trauma while he deals with them. I do not wish Hassani any ill will, I do not harbor any hatred for him or wish bad things upon him, I'm sorry his position is in jeopardy, but as a Filer resident, who is a single mother and feeling that I and my child are secure and safe because I don't have anyone but the police to help me is very important to me, I am not at all comfortable that this man is in my town in a position of authority with a weapon and an apparent temperament demonstrating eagerness to use it. I would not trust him to treat me with respect or innocentuntilprovenguilty during a traffic stop, especially as a soontobe concealed carry holder. I would actually fear his approach to my car window. He should be in a position that does not require weapon use or work with the public and I hope all involved are able to find a better place for him to offer his attributes. I want other officers to come to my home when I or my child need help, I would hesitate greatly before calling for help if I knew Hassani would show up and if he can't even figure out how to speak kindly to attempt benevolent connection with a common behaving dog, I am not confident he could treat my daughter with any professionalism or competence if he were to respond to her call for help, especially if she were frantic or upset. No axe to grind whatsoever, I just do not feel he has the necessary behavioral qualifications needed for his current position and it is time the city recognizes this and acts upon it.
  7. Filer Resident
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    Filer Resident - March 14, 2014 2:52 pm
    Wow, definitely some anger here. You make some good points but some very poor points too. For instance, I totally agree that this really isn't about the dog at all. This is about others deciding that they know what is best for my community by saying, "The community has spoken." I hardly think the 27 people at the meeting was indicative of how the "community" feels. No, I was not at the meeting nor would I want to attend something like that where the actual issue has been so lost in the anger that people feel justified in basically ruining another person. What types of write-ups were in his disciplinary file? Had you made a complaint prior to this time or did you wait until this occurred and so you felt more comfortable in the group. A pack mentality can be a dangerous thing and I certainly hope you don't ever have to go up against one yourself as they often show no mercy but instead righteous indignation. Also, the fact that you brought up the shooting of the individual who had just shot someone else in the manner that you did lets me know that you did not have much information about that day as I don't feel that situation supports your point well at all.
  8. farmergirl
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    farmergirl - March 14, 2014 2:19 pm
    Filer Resident, so let me see if I have this right: Anyone who spoke against Hassani just has "an axe to grind?" Really? Their stores of aggresuvem bullying, intimidating treatment by Officer Hassani is irrelevant? Do they not have the right to be treated with dignity and respect by a public servant? Seemes to me that they felt like the community and city council needed to hear how this officer conducts himself while doing his job. This isn't just about the shooting of Hooch. This was a wake up call. What about the dog he shot in 2008 or the human being he shot in the head -- through a car window he admits he could not see through -- in 2010? Do you not see a pattern of poor judgment and recklessness with a firearm here? Officer Hassani, by his own admission, did not have a "Plan B" in mind when he got out of his vehicle and drew his gun. I believe he planned to shoot the dog from the get-go and then use his "fear" of dogs as justification for his actions. If his fear is that overwhelming, he is in the wrong profession. Where you at last night's meeting? On which side of the podium were you seated?
  9. Filer Resident
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    Filer Resident - March 14, 2014 12:21 pm
    To be honest, I don't think the number of people who showed up at the meeting is indicative of truly of how people feel. I think it just basically showed those who had an ax to grind. Some of us are more than willing to let his administrators deal with the issue. Also, remember, concerning dogs, it does not have to be a life-threatening fear only one of bodily harm.
  10. farmergirl
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    farmergirl - March 14, 2014 11:56 am
    The community has spoken. Since the hearing was clearly designated for "Filer residents," let's just discount the comment by Councilwoman Sojka whether it could be construed as self-serving or not. It was up to the Mayor and Council members to maintain control of their meeting by only allowing Filer residents to speak and they obviously blew that. The results still clearly showed 3 against firing Hassani vs. 23 for his dismissal -- hardly a 50/50 split as the Mayor has on several occasions pointed out. Yes, the review did justify the shooting but read the document in its entirety, it also points out an instance where Hassani lied by saying the dogs circled him, the fact that the police department was unable to produce documentation, etc. It justified the shooting because Hassani feared being bitten and, I'm sorry, but that it just not a life-threatening fear or one appropriate for someone serving in his capacity. As Mr. Kenny Rogers say, "Ya gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold'em." The man is a liability; cut your losses and walk away.
  11. Filer Resident
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    Filer Resident - March 14, 2014 10:58 am
    I just have one question: why would a Twin Falls councilwoman be addressing this issue? I believe it is a bit out of her bailiwick. Also, I was a little concerned about her comment, "The citizens are calling for justice. It's outrageous that an officer sworn to protect the public could shoot this dog." Justice is most closely associated with the concept of due process. An independent investigation on Officer Hassani's actions found his use of force justified. However, it appears Ms. Sojka's definition of justice is whatever supports her personal opinion. Interesting...

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