An Adams County Sheriff’s Office deputy who fatally shot a dog at an unincorporated Adams County business in January will not face criminal charges.
The nearly two-month long investigation stemmed from a Jan. 14 incident when Deputy Wilfred Europe shot an 8-year-old blue heeler and border collie mix named Ziggy during a burglar alarm response to the wrong address.
In a six-page letter addressed to Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr, Adams County District Attorney Dave Young said there was not enough evidence to support a criminal animal cruelty charge against Europe.
“The issue in this investigation is the requirement that the prosecution establish that a person ‘needlessly kills’ an animal,” the letter read in part. “Given the facts and circumstances presented in this case, the evidence is insufficient to have a reasonable likelihood of success at trial in meeting our burden that Deputy Europe ‘needlessly’ killed the dog beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The letter noted there were “significant discrepancies” between the witness accounts provided by the dog’s owner Jeff Fisher and the two responding deputies, Europe and Deputy David Slater.
The deputies consistently said they remained at a 20 to 25 feet distance away from Fisher after they opened the door to his business behind a building at 5460 Tennyson St. and that Europe shot Ziggy after kicking the dog to deter continual aggressive advances.
The letter, however, stated Fisher told investigators that deputies “forced entry and pointed a gun at his face” at the threshold of his door when Ziggy ran outside. Fisher said Ziggy walked about 15 to 20 feet away from the door and turned around to return to him when he was shot “numerous times in rapid succession.”
The necropsy performed on Ziggy revealed that the dog was shot one time in the upper back region at a downward angle and displayed several blunt force-related trauma wounds to the front part of its body.
“The facts and evidence gathered from the scene appears to corroborate the deputies’ version of events,” the letter read in part. “Such evidence is consistent with the deputies’ statements that Deputy Europe kicked the dog in an effort to prevent an attack and it is certainly inconsistent with the theory that the dog was kicked after being shot as bruising would not be present after the death of the animal.”
Adams County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Paul Gregory said on Monday that the department most likely will not issue a statement on the decision as of press time.
Gregory said Europe, who was removed from patrol duty shortly after the shooting and reassigned to another Sheriff’s Office division, will continue to work in that division until further notice.
Wheat Ridge-based Animal Law Center attorney Jennifer Edwards, who is representing Fisher, said she and several other attorneys are still determining if there is any further legal recourse.
Edwards said she has been working closely with Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial, and Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, to craft a bill aimed at providing more canine behavior training for police officers and curbing law enforcement-involved dog shootings.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the decision to not prosecute Wilfred Europe, but it hasn’t deterred us in our mission to get justice for Ziggy,” Edwards said.