Marie was just protecting her home, says her owner.
For the 8-year-old German shepherd, that home was an illegal campsite on the west side. Kevin MacBlane, 47, had set up his tent between Fountain Creek and the footpath that runs along U.S. Highway 24.
On the morning of Nov. 16, three El Paso County Sheriff's Office deputies approached MacBlane's campsite, responding to complaints of aggressive panhandling along the footpath.
It was around 10 a.m. MacBlane had just awakened and was relieving himself on a tree when he heard his dog tear away from the campsite, barking.
Two deputies were walking along the creek. Another, Deputy Steven Brown, was approaching from the path, located up an embankment and on the other side of a fence.
Marie dragged her leash behind her as she approached Brown, barking and clawing at the ground. MacBlane says by the time he zipped up his pants and made it up to the path, he saw Marie crouched in front of Brown, aggressive but cautious. And he saw Brown aim his gun at the dog's head, and shoot her through her muzzle. As she spun away, blood spraying, Brown shot her again in the side.
MacBlane says he was only 15 yards away. "I was hysterical," he says, "screaming, 'Oh my God!' over and over again."
Deputy Brown, in his incident report, claims Marie was attacking when he shot her. She had bitten at his left foot, leaving marks in his boot leather, when he kicked her away and shot. He says she then lunged at him again, causing him to fire a second time.
Brown behaved in accordance with policy, says Sheriff's Office public information officer Sgt. Mike Schaller. When dealing with an aggressive animal, the deputy can administer the "objectively reasonable" amount of force required to avoid personal physical harm.
"If a dog is being vicious and is threatening to the deputy and makes an attempt to bite, or, as in this case, has bitten," Schaller says, "we can use force to protect ourself from the animal."
The Colorado Springs Police Department operates under a similar Use of Firearms policy, which reads: "The killing of an animal is justified to prevent substantial harm to the officer or another person."
MacBlane was cited for unlawful ownership of a dangerous animal. Severely injured, Marie was taken to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. She survived and is recuperating, but her fate is uncertain. According to Schaller, the court will decide whether or not MacBlane gets his dog back.
As Humane Society communications specialist Erica Meyer puts it, the court will sometimes release a dog taken as a dangerous animal if the defendant can meet certain conditions, such as providing a fence or an enclosed kennel. Otherwise, the Humane Society will take possession and decide what to do.
"The animal may be euthanized if it poses a safety concern for our community," Meyer says, speaking generally.
In the meantime, MacBlane must appear in court on the misdemeanor charge. He has paid the Humane Society $600 in borrowed money to care for Marie for 30 days. This $600 is a monthly bond that he will have to pay until his hearing, which is scheduled for sometime early next year, he says. If he doesn't make the payment, the shelter can put Marie down.
He will also have to pay for her medical care; according to Meyer, that expense will be attached to his next bond payment. As of now, that cost is upward of $1,000 and climbing.
According to MacBlane, Marie has always been protective but never violent. She was spooked by the officers but could have been calmed down, he says, had he been given time to intervene.
"I'm going to do everything I can to get her back," he says. Marie is his closest companion. He raised her from a pup. He receives a welfare check of roughly $600 a month, he adds, and intends to spend all of it on his dog. "I can live on nothing."
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