WYCKOFF, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Wyckoff, New Jersey police Chief Benjamin Fox released a lengthy statement Friday on a shooting that killed a family dog in the township late last month and the investigation that has followed, saying some facts had been misrepresented.
The dog, named Otto, was shot and killed after a police officer responded to a report of a burglary at the wrong home.
Police have acknowledged the mistake, but Fox said “many facts have been misrepresented,” and Otto’s owner deserves transparency. Fox’s letter indicated that claims that police were not telling the truth about the incident were unfounded.
A resident walked into Wyckoff Police Headquarters around 3:45 p.m. April 29 to report a possible burglary attempt, Fox wrote. The resident was advised than an officer would respond, and Officer Kyle Ferreira was sent by a dispatcher to the home at 621 Lawlins Rd., Fox wrote.
But Ferreira got the address wrong and went to 622 Lawlins Rd., Fox wrote.
After dispatch tells Ferreira that the burglary happened in the past, the officer says: “Do you know how long in the past? We’re just right around the corner.”
The dispatcher replies, “According to the desk, quite a while in the past — like days.”
But Fox wrote that while the dispatcher did say the burglary was believed to have happened “days” earlier, this was not actually true. The resident of the home was cleaning up at the time, and the Wyckoff clerk told the dispatcher that the resident simply did not know how long ago the attempt had happened.
Ferreira thought he was at the right house when he arrived at 622 Lawlins Rd., and said no one answered when he knocked on the door, Fox wrote. Ferreira said he did not hear a dog at that point, Fox wrote.
A witness reported that he did see the officer in front of the house, and could not definitively say the officer did not knock on the door, Fox wrote.
Ferreira then looked around the exterior of the home, thinking he had arrived before the homeowner had returned from reporting the burglary and police headquarters, Fox wrote. Ferreira went to the backyard through an unlocked gate, and saw an open window on the ground floor, Fox wrote.
Since there were no cars in the driveway and no one answered the door, Ferreira suspected that the burglar had gone through the open window to get into the house, Fox wrote. With that in mind, Ferreira took his gun out of his holster – in accordance with attorney general guidelines, Fox wrote.
“Even though the dispatcher incorrectly informed the officer that the event was days old, a police officer is going to evaluate a situation based on their personal observations at that precise moment in time,” Fox wrote. “Those personal observations, and the requirement to protect oneself from potential harm, are why a police officer should not be guided solely by the words of a radio transmission.”
Ferreira then reported a dog barking aggressively inside the home, and said a full-grown German shepherd jumped from the window and charged at the officer aggressively, Fox wrote. Ferreira said he started running toward the gate to escape, but the dog bit down on his right boot and held on, Fox wrote.
Ferreira reported that the aggressiveness and large size of the dog, and the fact that the dog was biting down on his boot and not letting go, meant that he could be seriously injured, Fox wrote. With that in mind, he defended himself and fired four rounds, Fox wrote.
Ferreira said he thought the dog let him go after the first shot, but kept coming at him, Fox wrote. He stopped firing after the dog turned and went back toward the house, and he then left the backyard and radioed for assistance, Fox wrote.
The next day, there was social media information reporting an eyewitness account that claimed the police account of the incident was not accurate, Fox wrote. Fox directed his officers to find anyone who might have seen something, and did end up finding a witness in a home across the street who had watched from a first-floor window, Fox wrote.
But the witness said she was preoccupied with a grandchild and might have turned away, and said she did not see him unholster his gun or see the dog bite, Fox wrote. She would not have been able to see those events, as they happened in a backyard that was out of sight, Fox wrote.
Still, because of allegations that police were not being truthful about the incident, Fox brought in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office, who in turn handed the matter to the police Internal Affairs Division, Fox wrote.
The Internal Affairs Division concluded that there was no reason to believe Ferreira was not being truthful, and Fox has exonerated him of any such claims, the letter said.
Fox and Wyckoff Mayor Kevin Rooney had also wanted to meet with Otto’s owners personally, but other township officials said all communication must be limited to attorneys.
“Still, we are saddened that this incident ever took place,” Fox wrote. “We are mindful that the family has lost a pet dog that they loved. We are upset that an error in hearing an incorrect house number put us on that property which allowed the successive events to unfold.”
Speaking earlier this week, the family of 5-year-old Otto was furious. Igor Vukobratovic showed CBS2 that bullet casings were still littering the backyard weeks later.
Vukobratovic said he does not believe Otto attacked the officer.
“I mean, he’s not a trained guard dog. He’s just a German shepherd,” he said. “If he sees a stranger, he’s going to come barking at them, but he’s never bitten anybody.”
Last week, pet owners and activists staged a demonstration alleging inconsistencies in the police report.
The family said they will forgive when they think they have gotten the truth.