Bite the Bullet

Minneapolis police say "common sense" led them to shoot Scott Derrick's beloved mutt. So what if he was on a leash?

MPD policy, Parrish says, allows officers to shoot dogs "whenever they are in a situation where a dog is a danger to themselves or anyone else in the area." The department does not keep a tally of dog shootings, nor does Animal Control; in the past year, the city paid out a little over $40,000 in connection with two incidents, in 1990 and 1995, in which officers killed pet dogs.

Colleen Meyer, a volunteer with the Animal Rights Coalition, says her organization receives five to ten calls a year complaining about Minneapolis police shooting dogs. "This sort of thing goes on all the time," Meyer contends. "And the only way this is going to stop is if people sue the city." Derrick says he's been looking for an attorney, but without much luck. "I talked to a couple of lawyers and they say it's pretty hard to sue the cops," he shrugs.

Around the Free State, though, the tale of "Thorsday" has become legend--in part because of the old dog's remarkable survival ("I think that all the positive spirits here jumped into Thor and brought him back to life," Derrick says), and in part because of the camp's lingering bitterness toward law enforcement. After all, Derrick and his allies invariably note, a December raid on their earlier encampment was the largest such effort in state history. "Everybody thinks [the shooting] was a retaliatory action, to get even with us because of the charges being dismissed," Derrick says, referring to the authorities' failure to secure convictions against most of those arrested.

Tough dog: Thor and the slug in his chest have become legend around the "Minnehaha Free State"
Mike Mosedale
Tough dog: Thor and the slug in his chest have become legend around the "Minnehaha Free State"

Parrish is quick to dismiss that theory. "It's really a stretch on their part to go there," she says. "The officers were just checking out the vehicle. This had nothing to do with Highway 55."

Editor's Note: As this story went to press, protesters were attempting to block state Department of Transportation crews working in the Highway 55 corridor. At least 29 people were arrested Monday and Tuesday, and one protester was hospitalized.

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