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Salt Lake City Council wants answers from chief over shooting death of dog

Published: Thursday, June 26 2014 4:05 p.m. MDT

Sean Kendall, whose dog was shot and killed by a Salt Lake police officer in his backyard while searching for a missing child last week, talks about his meeting with police officials, Monday, June 23, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Homeowner Haley Bowen is in the the background. The Salt Lake City Council on Thursday sent a letter to Chief Chris Burbank looking for answers about the shooting and the department's search policies.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Council is calling on Chief Chris Burbank and his police department to "educate" the public on the policies of searching for a missing child.

The request was made following public outcry and a flood of inquiries to council members over the recent officer-involved shooting death of a dog locked in its own yard. The officer had entered the dog's backyard in Sugar House looking for a missing child when he was confronted by Geist, a 110-pound, 2-year-old Weimaraner.

"As a council, we are deeply saddened by the recent unfortunate series of events that resulted in the death of a beloved dog," the council stated in a letter addressed to Burbank.

The City Council called on the department to inform the public about how searches of property are conducted, and said it is "hopeful that unintended consequences such as this can be avoided in the future."

On June 18, police were looking for a missing 3-year-old in the area of 2500 South and 1500 East. An officer entered Sean Kendall's backyard and was confronted by Geist. Kendall was not home at the time. Geist was shot in the head.

The boy was found safe in his home about 30 minutes later.

Thursday, Salt Lake police reiterated that the investigation is ongoing and that more information will be released in the coming days.

"We understand the public's desire for more information. But we need to conclude the investigation before saying more, and we will release our findings to the public at the appropriate time," said Salt Lake police spokeswoman Lara Jones.

As for the way searches are conducted, Jones said cases involving missing children are "dynamic and evolving" situations, but she declined to get into the specifics of this case.

Earlier, police said that the missing child "was largely nonverbal and likely would not respond to calls by name," which meant officers needed to actually search yards rather than just call out for the boy.

The Police Civilian Review Board is also conducting its own investigation. The officer who shot the dog remains on duty. Officer-involved shootings involving animals do not require that an officer be placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

"We request that both investigations be thorough and deliberate with the results released to the public as soon as possible," the council letter states.

The City Council said it applauds the police department for working with the Utah Humane Society in giving officers better training in dog behavior.

On Monday, Kendall and his attorney met with Salt Lake police for about two hours to discuss the situation. He left the meeting saying that although some progress had been made, he was frustrated because he did not get the answers he wanted. Kendall is calling for the officer to be fired.

This week, Kendall posted a homemade video he shot of his confrontation with officers immediately following the shooting.

A distraught Kendall, whose emotions in the video go from angry yelling to crying, demands to know why the officer went onto his property and why he "felt the need" to kill the dog.

"Backing up slowly and leaving the residence was not an option?" he asked.

The officer who shot the dog had left the scene before Kendall arrived with the camera. Police have not released the officer's name, only saying that he is a 10-year veteran. In the video, he is identified as "officer Olsen."

"Now I have to bury, clean the blood, and take care of my dog because an officer couldn't back … up," an enraged Kendall told the officers on scene.

A Facebook page titled Justice for Geist had attracted nearly 18,000 followers as of Thursday. The group has a rally scheduled for Saturday outside the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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