Click here for a March 5 story titled "Animal Control Training Not Built In for Some Law Enforcement."
Click here for a March 4 story titled "Dog Shootings by Police Prompt Mandatory Training in Other States."
Click here for a Feb. 19 story about protesters disrupting a Filer council meeting; plus a photo gallery.
Click here for a Feb. 19 story about the owner of Hooch hiring an attorney.
Click here for reporter Mychel Matthews' Feb. 18 blog post about covering the story.
FILER • The Filer City Council will not allow public comments about a police officer’s recent shooting of a dog during its meeting today.
"There is an investigation going on and we will address it when the investigation is complete," says a notice on the council’s agenda.
The meeting is at 7:30 tonight at the Filer City Council Chambers, 300 Main St.
Residents may submit written comments on the matter, Mayor Richard Dunn said Monday.
But the city won't act on the issue until after the investigation into Officer Tarek Hassani's actions is complete, Dunn said.
"I'd be there until midnight or longer and still not be able to do anything" if comments on the dog shooting were allowed, he said.
Hassani killed "Hooch," a 7-year-old black Labrador running loose in a west Filer neighborhood, on Feb. 9.
The video of the shooting, first made public on Magicvalley.com, sparked a national outcry against Hassani and the police department.
A protest in Filer in support of Hooch and his owner, Rick Clubb, drew more than 200 people. Many at the protest called for Hassani to be fired.
The video of the shooting, had 383,079 views on Youtube.com as of Sunday evening.
The video shows Hassani getting out of his cruiser with his gun drawn as two dogs circle and bark at him.
A Facebook group called “Officer Hassani Get Out of Filer Idaho,” which has 11,908 “likes,” urged its members to rally at Filer’s City Hall during the meeting. The post said the group has a goal of gathering hundreds of people to demand disciplinary action.
The council chambers only hold about 40 people, Dunn said.
"If people show up and there's a seat, they're welcome to stay," he said.
The meeting includes a public hearing on a proposed fee increase for the city's water and wastewater systems’ capacity.
Also addressed will be a proposed expansion of Logan's Market, a library board nomination and plans for Arbor Day and Filer Fun Days.
The council will hold an executive discussion — closed to the public — to consider the “evaluation, dismissal or discipline of, or hear charges or complaints brought against a public officer, employee, staff member or public school student.”
Download the free Times-News app for iPhone or Android to get the latest news at your fingertips now: Magicvalley.com/apps/
PREVIOUS STORY, FEB. 13:
Support Grows for Filer Police Officer Who Shot Dog
By Mychel Matthews, email@example.com
FILER • Despite a national outcry over Officer Tarek Hassani’s use of deadly force on a dog at large, some area residents are coming forward to defend Hassani, saying his actions were justified.
Hassani shot and killed “Hooch,” a 7-year-old black Labrador that was running loose in a west Filer neighborhood Saturday evening.
“I completely support Officer Hassani,” said Torrey Germann of Shoshone.
He said Hooch belonged to his sister before the dog was given to Rick Clubb in Filer.
“I know the dog well,” Germann said. He said he was never personally afraid of the dog, but he worried about Hooch around his young son.
“He was a very territorial dog — and aggressive,” Germann said. “As Hooch got older, he got grumpy.”
Two years ago, Germann’s sister advertised the dog online, and Clubb responded, asking to adopt him.
“We told him Hooch wasn’t good with children, but Clubb said he lived alone,” Germann said.
Germann’s sister adopted Hooch when he was a puppy. He said the dog appeared to have been abused earlier.
“We always had him locked up in the yard the way he should be,” said Germann.
Hooch and Clubb’s other Lab were down the street from their home Saturday when a neighbor called police to complain about the dogs running loose.
Hassani went to Clubb’s home that evening to deliver a dog citation.
What happened next — caught on video by the dashcam in Hassani’s cruiser — put Filer on the national map.
The video shows Hassani getting out of his cruiser with his gun drawn as the two dogs circled and barked at him.
Hassani yelled and kicked at Hooch before shooting him.
His supporters say Hooch would still be alive if the dog had been properly kenneled.
Some said Clubb regularly allowed his dogs to run loose; Clubb denied it.
“I don’t see why the man had his dogs out roaming around the streets,” former Filer resident Lorrinda McFarlin said Thursday. “Hassani has always been nice to me. I’ve never had a bad interaction with him.”
Natalie White said she and her husband, Aaron, used to live across the street from Hassani.
“He’s a gentleman,” she said. “I’ve never seen him have any issue with people or animals.”
The Whites started a Facebook page in support of Hassani. The page had 226 members at press time.
“I don’t agree or disagree with his actions, but he had limited options,” White said. “He was the one in the situation, and he has the right to protect himself in whatever way is necessary.”
Mayor Rick Dunn said he has received calls from people all over the world since the Times-News posted the video of the shooting on its website. Many of the callers support Hassani’s actions but not his attitude, Dunn said.
Only about 10 percent of the calls Dunn received were in support of Hassani, he said.
Another Facebook page, called “Officer Hassani Get of Idaho,” has received more than 10,000 “likes” over the past few days.
Several hundred protesters gathered Wednesday in Filer demanding that Hassani be fired.
After the shooting, Hassani can be heard aggressively banging on Clubb’s door and yelling profanities at him.
Twin Falls County Sheriff Tom Carter told the Times-News he wouldn’t second-guess Hassani’s decision to use deadly force against the dog.
“But I do take issue with his behavior afterward,” Carter said.
The city of Filer has hired the Nampa Police Department to investigate the shooting, Dunn said.
“I hope they do a thorough investigation,” he said. “Hopefully, they will make some recommendations to develop some different protocols down the road.”
PREVIOUS STORY, FEB. 12
Police Examine Dog-Handling Tactics in Wake of Filer Shooting
By Mychel Matthews, firstname.lastname@example.org
FILER • The police shooting of Filer resident Rick Clubb’s dog that was running at large Saturday stunned people locally and across the nation — including officers in a nearby jurisdiction.
Many are asking how this tragic event could have happened. Was officer Tarek Hassani trained in animal control before he encountered the barking black Labrador named “Hooch” outside a 9-year-old boy’s birthday party?
Maybe not, said Rory Olsen, deputy division administrator for Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training.
Idaho’s police academy teaches only the basics, Olsen said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his office in Boise.
“We don’t do any training whatsoever on animals. None,” he said. “That training is left up to individual police departments.
“There are too many scenarios that could play out” with animals, Olsen said, recalling his own encounters with moose, deer, opossum and dogs while in law enforcement in Pocatello.
The Filer Police Department has no dedicated animal-control officer, said Chief Timothy Reeves. However, he said, Filer officers do receive training in animal control. He declined to say what kind of training or from whom.
Elsewhere in Twin Falls County, Twin Falls Police Capt. Matt Hicks said his department’s policy addresses animal control. Officers are instructed to have a backup plan when encountering animals, especially dogs, so that the use of deadly force can be avoided.
The video captured by Hassani’s dashboard-mounted camera sent a shock wave through the Twin Falls Police Department, Hicks said.
“While this shooting is under investigation, we are asking our own officers to review our procedures and to reflect on how we would react” in Hassani’s shoes, he said.
Towns in the Magic Valley handle animal control in differing ways, depending on their budgets.
Twin Falls police started an animal control program two years ago; before that, officers handled dog issues themselves, Hicks said. When hired two years ago, the city’s animal-control officers rode along with Twin Falls County Sheriff’s animal control to get a feel for the job, he said.
Shoshonie Heitmann, Kimberly city clerk, said that town has a full-time community service officer responsible for ordinance enforcement and animal control.
Hansen, a small town a few miles down the road from Kimberly, has a code-enforcement and animal-control officer who works about 40 hours each month, said Linda Morrill, city clerk.
Buhl, like Filer, has no animal control officer.
Twin Falls County offered its animal control services to the city of Filer, said Sheriff Tom Carter, but Filer turned down the offer because of lack of funding.
While the city of Filer struggles with the aftermath of the dog’s shooting, it has turned the matter over to its insurance company, Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP).
ICRMP clients are public entities from the county level down, including cities, fire districts and public libraries, that form an insurance pool. Clients are insured by ICRMP and receive legal representation as part of their liability suits, said ICRMP spokesman Carl Ericson.
ICRMP advised Filer city staff to make no comments about the shooting while the incident is being investigated, Ericson said.
The city also chose an independent party to investigate the shooting, but “the agency that will be conducting the investigation has asked that its identity not be disclosed at this time,” City Attorney Fritz Wonderlich said Wednesday.
Wonderlich also refused the Times-News’ request for an interview with Hassani, who has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
Meanwhile, Clubb is looking for a replacement for Hooch. Clubb, who has Parkinson’s disease and is disabled, said Hooch was his service dog.
Clubb said he buried his dog outside the Filer city limits.
Click here for a story about a Wednesday-night rally in support of Rick Clubb and Hooch.
Click here for Opinion editor Jon Alexander's column about the developing story.
PREVIOUS STORY, FEB. 11
Filer Opens Investigation of Dog Shooting by Officer
By Mychel Matthews, email@example.com
FILER • Filer Police Officer Tarek Hassani was placed Tuesday on administrative leave following Saturday’s shooting death of a resident’s dog, said city Mayor Rick Dunn.
The city’s move follows local and national outcry stemming from a video recording of a black Labrador’s demise, including many calls from Magic Valley residents for his job.
“We want (Hassani) fired,” said Rick Clubb, Hooch’s owner. “He had other options. He didn’t have to kill my dog.”
After the Times-News posted the police department’s video of the shooting — from Hassani’s dashboard-mounted camera — on Magicvalley.com on Monday, calls began to flood City Hall, city officials said.
Deputy City Clerk Debbie McMahan said Tuesday she has received about 60 calls from concerned residents. McMahan said she asks callers for their contact information and promises that the mayor will call them back.
“I’m looking forward to talking to him,” said Ryan Magnelli, a two-year resident of Filer, who delivered a letter Tuesday demanding Hassani’s termination.
Magnelli said he is “disappointed” in the police department and now “embarrassed” to claim Filer as home.
“I don’t feel secure with a police officer running around being a cowboy,” he said. “Why didn’t he just pepper spray the dog?”
Mark Deaton, of Twin Falls, started a Facebook page called “Officer Hassani Get Out Of Filer, Idaho” that garnered more than 3,000 “likes” in less than 24 hours.
Deaton said he plans to hold a rally at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the parking lot of Cedar Lanes in Filer to show support for Clubb and Hooch.
“We are hoping for several hundred people to show up,” Deaton said. “There are lots of upset people who want to support Rick. We’ve had responses from all over the country.”
Hassani’s home phone number is unlisted, and city officials asked Tuesday in a press release for “patience” as an investigation into the use of force moves forward.
Hassani can be heard in the video apologizing to Clubb, noting that he believed the growling dogs were a threat.
“The last time I got bit I ended up in the ER ...,” Hassani told Clubb. “I’m sorry I shot your dog.”
Dog calls are complex situations that place police in proximity to a potentially dangerous and unpredictable animal, said George Harding, executive director of the National Animal Care and Control Association.
“We don’t know what’s going through the officer’s head in a situation like this,” said Harding.
While the majority of the responses to the shooting have criticized the officer for using deadly force against the dog, some have said his actions were justified.
Resident Betty Mingo, who lives across the street from Filer Middle School, said the small town has a big problem with dogs running at large.
“We have a leash law,” Mingo said. “But the dogs are terrible.”
Mingo said some students carry sticks to protect themselves from loose dogs.
“Certain places in town do have issues with dogs,” Police Chief Tim Reeves said. “But people who call in the complaints are not willing to sign a citation.
“We need people to step up,” he continued. “I don’t have time to chase every dog down.”
Clubb told the Times-News Tuesday that Hooch and his other Lab are usually confined in his backyard, but the two dogs slipped out the front door while guests were coming and going from his son’s ninth birthday party.
Police, however, say the dogs had been running loose earlier Saturday and previous attempts to find them proved unsuccessful.
Filer does not have a dedicated animal control officer, Reeves said. All five of the city’s full-time officers and six reserve officers respond to dog calls.
Reeves said his officers are trained on how to deal with aggressive dogs, but he refused Tuesday to say what they are trained to do.
The shooting will be investigated, said Mayor Dunn. City Attorney Fritz Wonderlich is working with Twin Falls Police Chief Brian Pike to determine which agency should investigate.
“We want this to be as objective as possible,” Dunn said.
ORIGINAL STORY, FEB. 10:
Officer Shoots Dog at Boy's Birthday Party
By Jon Alexander, firstname.lastname@example.org
FILER • A dog is dead, and its owner is alleging trigger-happy police work after a Filer officer shot the animal Saturday outside his home.
Police, however, say the dog was aggressive and had to be put down.
Rick Clubb said Monday that his son’s 9th birthday party was wrapping up about 5:30 p.m. when Officer Tarek Hassani came to his home on Jacklyne Circle on complaints of dogs running at-large.
He shot the 7-year-old black Labrador, “Hooch,” Clubb said, though it showed no aggressive behavior.
Clubb said he suffers Parkinson’s disease, and Hooch was his trained service animal.
“He didn’t have to pull out his .45 and shoot my dog,” Clubb said. “It was right outside my son’s bedroom. What if it had ricocheted through the window?”
A recording of the shooting from the cruiser’s dashboard-mounted camera acquired Monday by the Times-News shows Hassani yelling “get back” and kicking at the snarling and barking dogs as he made his way to Clubb’s front door.
A chihuahua and two large dogs were running unleashed around the neighborhood when Hassani arrived, said Filer Police Chief Tim Reeves.
“He had to kick one to keep him away,” the chief said.
Hassani had no choice but to put the Lab down after it kept taking an aggressive posture behind him, Reeves said.
Clubb was ticketed for allowing animals to run at large.
Clubb said he will fight the ticket leveled against him after a heated argument with Hassani.
“Well, my dog is dead,” Clubb said. “I don’t think that’s fair.”