During my regular Friday appearance on AM 1130's Up and At 'Em show last week, yours truly and hosts Jack Tomczak and Ben Kruse talked about the sad story of Tito, the dog that was recently shot to death by a Minneapolis cop on the North Side.
During the discussion, one of Tito's owners, Paul Trott, called in to share his perspective. Right off the bat, he said this: "The very first thing out of [the officer who shot his dog's] mouth, and the truth is, he said, 'This is what we do and I would do it again.' And that is the honest truth."
Here's the full audio:
Shortly after the shooting, Trott told us the MPD officer who shot his nearly two-year-old, 120-pound Cane Corso is Officer D.R. Mattson, badge number 4486. Mattson was in an alley in the area of Aldrich and 39th Avenues North looking for a car theft suspect when he shot Tito. Unbeknownst to Trott and his partner, Josh Lyczkowski, the suspect had broken the gate to their yard's fence while fleeing, and their two dogs found their way to the alley when Trott and Lyczkowski let them out.
After Tito was shot, "From the very first words out of [Mattson's] mouth, [police] were very hostile to us, which is a big part of why we're angry," Trott continued during his AM 1130 call. "If they feel threatened in some way the first thing they do is empty a round [in a dog]."
Trott's characterization of officers' attitudes isn't seconded by the MPD, however. In a statement released after the shooting, the MPD said, "Police officers are placed into situations where, at times, they must make immediate decisions based on only the facts that are present at that moment... The decision to shoot, or harm, an animal is not made lightly, but at times must be made immediately."
"These are very sad and unfortunate incidents and ones that no one wants to occur," it concludes, the implication being that Officer Mattson had no choice but to open fire when the dog bounded down an alley toward him.
Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder tells us that as is standard procedure when an officer uses a gun in the line of duty, Tito's shooting is under internal investigation. He couldn't provide a specific timeline for when it might wrap up, but investigations of this sort are often lengthy processes.
Trott says he's been in regular contact with his City Council representative, Council President Barb Johnson, since the shooting. Reached for comment yesterday, Johnson, who recently made a case that the city isn't doing enough to address North Side public safety issues, withheld judgment on whether police had a valid reason to gun down Tito.
"There are a fair number of encounters with dangerous dogs in north Minneapolis and, you know, I represent the 4th Ward, which always has the largest number of calls to animal control," Johnson said. "From what I understand the officer felt he was in danger and that's why he shot the dog. Now, whether or not his perception was justified or reasonable, that's for the investigation to find out."