An Anne Arundel County police officer shot and killed a family's dog Saturday while investigating a burglary in Pasadena, officials said.
Police said the officer -- a one-year veteran of the force who was not identified -- was canvassing a neighborhood looking for witnesses around 4 p.m. Saturday. When the officer went to a home in 900 block of Lombardee Circle, the dog -- a male Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Vern -- "confronted" the officer in the front yard, police said. The officer then fired his weapon twice, killing the dog, police said.
Tim Reeves -- one of Vern's owners -- said he had been in the basement of his Pasadena house setting up for a Super Bowl party when his girlfriend called him from upstairs, saying she'd seen a police officer in the front yard.
"I said to him 'How can I help you, officer?'" Tim Reeves said. "He looked at me and said 'I unloaded on your dog. Your dog attacked me, and I killed it.'"
His father, Michael Reeves, who wore a denim jacket with a patch that read "Vern" on the chest, stood in the driveway. He choked up as he described where the bullet casings were found. The family has two other dogs, a Chesapeake Retriever named Jazmin and a French Bulldog named Madeline.
"I just don't get it," he said, walking inside and shaking his head.
The family said the officer wanted to interview a neighbor and was walking across the front yards of homes on the street when the shooting happened. The Reeves family was not involved in the burglary investigation that brought the officer to their neighborhood. Vern barked and ran toward the officer, prompting the shooting, the family said.
The police department promised a full investigation and acknowledged that the shooting was a traumatic incident for the family of the deceased dog.
Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis met with the Reeves family this weekend.
"My deepest condolences go out to the family of Vern during this extremely difficult time," Davis said in a statement.
Maryland has seen several high-profile cases of law enforcement officers killing family pets in recent years.
In August 2010, a federal police officer Keith Elgin Shepherds shot and killed a Siberian husky he claimed attacked his pet and was threatening him and his wife at a community dog park in Severn. At first, Shepherds was only questioned by police, but after community protests he was charged with animal cruelty and a weapons violation. He was eventually fined and given probation before judgment.
In July 2008, a Prince George's County SWAT team shot and killed two Labrador retrievers during a search of the home of Berwyn Height's Mayor Cheye Calvo. Police mistakenly thought his wife was involved in drug trafficking. That case garnered national attention.
Calvo was cleared of any wrongdoing, and a lawsuit against Prince George's County was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Tonya Reeves, Michael's wife and Tim's mother, hopes the Anne Arundel County police department will integrate more training for officers to teach them how to better handle such situations.
Tonya Reeves said the neighborhood is very dog and child-friendly. A park in the middle of the circle hosts touch football games in the spring and summer, she said.
"You expect to lose your pet," she said. "You know there's a good chance you'll outlive him. You always know something might happen."
But "it's devastating," she said. "He was a member of our family," she said. "It's no different from it being a person."