BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A robbery investigation quickly turned violent for Baton Rouge Police Officer Abraham Wilson III. The officer was called out to a house on Adams Avenue on February 7, 2016, to talk with a robbery victim.
However, Wilson's initial report and body camera video show two dogs ran toward the officer, barking and growling from the neighboring yard. Records obtained by WAFB indicate Wilson called for Animal Control and asked bystanders who the dogs belonged to. The records say the bystanders didn't answer. Wilson is heard in the body camera footage telling the robbery victim to get in his police unit for safety, which he does. The video also shows Wilson sparked his Taser at the barking dogs several times.
About a minute and a half into the video, the dogs run back to the neighbor's home, but return as the officer sparks his Taser again. After nearly three minutes, the officer pulls out his gun and curses.
Nearly 30 seconds later, the video shows Wilson fired one shot, killing the dog closest to him while the other runs off. Wilson immediately reported the shooting, and other officers arrive seconds later. Animal Control arrives about four minutes after that and takes away the second dog, apparently without incident.
After the shooting, Wilson also appears to turn off the camera's audio before speaking with another officer on scene. The audio remains off through the remainder of the 30-minute video, released through a public records request. According to BRPD, officers are allowed to deactivate their cameras in certain circumstances, including when they need to discuss an issue with a supervisor or investigator.
The shooting was examined by the department's Weapons Use Review Board. All six members ruled the shooting was unjustified. The board says the dogs never appeared to leave the boundary of their yard, and says the shooting itself endangered bystanders who were standing behind the dogs a few houses away. Specifically, the board noted in their findings that "when the victim had been secured in officer's Wilson's unit, the threat had been diminished to a level that a reasonable and prudent officer would have removed his vehicle to an area where the animals could be safely observed until Animal Control arrived."
Police Chief Carl Dabadie agreed and suspended Wilson for ten days. In the suspension letter to the officer, Dabadie stated he did not believe the dogs were an immediate or imminent threat.
He also wrote: "Your use of foul language right before the shooting indicated that you were tired of the situation and wanted to get it over with."
After the dog is shot, Wilson can be heard telling another officer at the scene, "I ain't going to risk a dog bite for a Taser."
Nearly a year later, the civil service board heard Wilson's appeal. With help from the Magnolia State Peace Officers Association, Wilson argued he was acting to protect the robbery victim and the other bystanders. The association also called out Chief Dabadie for what they called a "double standard with discipline."
"The greatest concern is the fact that there continues to be a disparity in punishments. Arrests, other discharges of firearms ruled unjustified, and more egregious violations of policy received far less of a punishment," wrote Myron Daniels, Capital Area President of the Magnolia State Peace Officers Association. The civil service board ultimately reduced the suspension from ten to five days. A spokesman from BRPD said it appears that suspension has not yet been served.
Daniels also stated they are considering appealing the matter to the 19th Judicial District Court.