SAN JUAN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Newly obtained body cam footage is raising questions months after a dog was killed by a San Juan police officer.
At 8:50 a.m. Sept. 11, an officer with the San Juan Police Department was dispatched to the 1200 block of S. Kanas Avenue in reference to “aggressive canines on the loose,” an incident report from the San Juan Police Department stated. Authorities had received four calls in reference to the dogs, police said.
Police made contact with the caller, who said she was grabbing her mail when three big dogs began aggressively barking and growling. She said a “huge” white dog jumped on her and pushed on her stomach area while barking, the report stated.
She grabbed a branch and started swinging at the dogs before running inside her home, according to police. Her neighbor told her to call the police.
According to the report, the officer at the scene found three dogs — two Great Danes and one pug — and drew a stun device when he saw the three dogs approaching. He discharged the device to try to scare the dogs but was unsuccessful, according to police.
In what the report calls a “split-second decision,” the officer drew his service weapon and shot at the direction of the dogs in “imminent fear for his life.”
He fired two rounds, with one round striking and killing one of the Great Danes, a pet named Lady.
Body cam footage obtained by ValleyCentral revealed the interaction after the shooting between Officer Luis Tellez and Itati Rincon, the dog’s owner. Footage shows German Rincon, Itati’s father, asking the officer to see the body cam footage. Tellez said “That’s fine.”
However, the video begins after shots were fired and Lady takes her final breath.
4 Investigates obtained body cam footage from Tellez and three other officers, including Sgt. Leonardo Sifuentes. All of the officers’ body cameras had portions of their footage muted.
San Juan Police Department policy 5.3 focuses on computer and electronic equipment usage and data security. This includes body worn cameras and digital media recorders.
The policy for body worn audio/DMR states “the recording shall continue until the incident is complete or the officer has left the scene.”
The policy further notes that the recording shall continue “during any interview with a victim, witness or suspect” and “during any enforcement contact when the officer is outside his/her vehicle.”
Tellez’s audio is off when speaking in a group conversation with the responding animal control officer, Sifuentes and Sgt. Padilla. However, Padilla’s audio captures Tellez commenting on the Rincon family wanting his body camera footage to show the moment that led to the shooting and wanting to sue.
City Manager Benjamin Arjona confirmed to ValleyCentral that he directed then-Police Chief Ruben Morin to look into why the body camera did not record the shooting.
Audio from the footage after the shooting reveals the officer telling his colleagues that he does not like responding to animal control calls because he had been bit before by a pit bull.
When Rincon’s daughter, Itati, asked the officer why he did not give Lady a chance, he responded that he was not going to take that chance.
The dog was buried in Rincon’s yard. Itati said she visits Lady’s grave often to tell her she was a good girl.
“She was a good girl,” Itati said. “I know for a fact she went to heaven.”
Rincon was given a citation for allowing his dogs to run loose and has a court date set for later this month.