SLC cop cleared in shooting of Geist the dog

Posted at 9:54 AM, Aug 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-01 23:50:12-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A pair of investigations have cleared a Salt Lake City police officer who shot and killed a dog while searching for a missing child.

An internal affairs investigation and a probe by Salt Lake City's Civilian Review Board found Officer Brett Olsen did not violate policy when he shot Geist in the backyard of Sean Kendall's home.

"This was an unfortunate circumstance in which an officer was doing exactly what we in the public require of them, and an animal who was doing what instinct believes appropriate," Burbank said at a Friday morning news conference. "We are, as the police department, very sorry for the circumstance."

Kendall blasted the findings.

"It is with great disappointment the Salt Lake City Police Department has chosen to tow the thin blue line instead of uphold their oath to the sovereign country and state they are employed by," Kendall told reporters outside his home Friday afternoon.

Read the letter from the SLCPD to Kendall here:

Kendall's 2-year-old Weimeraner "Geist" was killed on June 18 as Olsen searched the neighborhood for a missing toddler. He entered Kendall's backyard, and police said he shot Geist because the dog charged him and the officer felt threatened.

The Civilian Review Board, which is independent from the SLC PD, also ruled the shooting justified.

Read the findings from the CRB here:

Kendall told FOX 13 he did not believe the CRB was truly independent.

"When police investigate themselves, typically they find themselves not guilty," he said.

Burbank said the officer was justified.

"Imagine the outcry if that child was in that yard injured, abducted... and we did nothing?" he said.

Read the dispatch log for the missing child report here:

Burbank said there is a legal standard that allows for officers to enter into yards unannounced. He also said Officer Olsen had "seconds" to react. The reports stated there was 3 feet between a charging Geist and Olsen, who used deadly force.

The Civilian Review Board report found that Olsen did not have training on how to deal with attacking animals, unlike other officers. Burbank committed that the SLC PD would provide more training for officers going forward.

Burbank called for a lessening of the "rhetoric" from people outraged over the dog's shooting, noting that some people have made death threats against Olsen and other SLC PD officers.

"All I ask is for a civil dialogue," he said.

Read the dispatch log for the shooting of Geist here:

Burbank said the SLC PD offered to compensate Kendall for the death of Geist and pay for burial costs immediately after the shooting, but it was rejected.

The chief insisted the police department was approached by Kendall about a settlement. At the news conference, Burbank refused to talk specifics about the negotiations but said Kendall never sought policy changes within the department, only money.

After going back-and-forth on Facebook, Kendall announced earlier this week that he had rejected the settlement. On Friday, he told reporters he was consulting with a lawyer and considering a lawsuit against the SLC PD.

The shooting has triggered outrage from animal rights activists and others, who believed that the officer should never have entered Kendall's backyard. Several protests have been staged over the shooting of Geist.

Read a statement from the Humane Society of Utah here: