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News Maryland Baltimore Crime Beat

Officer charged with killing dog set out to 'gut' it, witnesses said

A Baltimore police officer slit the throat of a dog officers had under control and now faces felony animal cruelty charges, the department said Wednesday.

Police Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere called the killing "outrageous and unacceptable" and said internal affairs is investigating the incident, which took place Saturday morning in Brewers Hill.

Baltimore City Councilman Robert W. Curran, council liaison to the Mayor's Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission, said there was no reason to have killed the dog if it was restrained with a dog-control pole, as police say it was.

"It's pretty astounding that our public safety officers would ever have done this," Curran said. "If you're on the pole, usually, you're pretty much at bay, you're not a threat."

The officer, identified as Jeffrey Bolger, 49, was booked Wednesday and released on his own recognizance. He faces charges of animal cruelty, aggravated animal cruelty and malfeasance in office. Bolger's attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

Witnesses at the scene told police that Bolger, who has worked in the department's Special Operations Section since 1992, was talking about killing the animal as he got out of his vehicle.

"I'm going to [expletive] gut this thing," witnesses heard him say, according to the charging document.

After another officer managed to gain control of it, Bolger cut its throat with a knife, witnesses told police. The animal bled out before Animal Control arrived, police said.

Other officers at the scene have been forthcoming with details, police say, but investigators are trying to determine whether the incident should have been disclosed sooner. Investigators didn't learn of the killing until Monday — two days afterward.

"Completely unnecessary, completely cruel, no patience," said the dog's owner, Sarah Gossard of Canton. "This is a living thing. If I had a 7-year-old kid, is this how you would treat my kid? I don't have a kid. I have this dog."

The killing of the 7-year-old Shar-Pei named Nala came a day after a Baltimore police officer shot to death a steer in Mount Vernon after it had escaped a slaughterhouse and evaded capture for about two miles. That incident also is under department investigation, but officials have defended the officer's use of force.

Baltimore police Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said there was no "viable" way to justify the killing of the Shar-Pei, which took place in the 700 block of Grundy St. in Brewers Hill.

"We have no words to describe this," he said.

On the morning of June 14, Gossard said, she let her dog out and didn't notice an open gate.

A woman later saw Nala and tried to catch the dog, but it bit her, wounding the woman superficially, Palmere said. Officers from the Southeastern District arrived and corralled the dog while summoning police Emergency Services officers, who carry the long dog-control poles that can safely lasso stray dogs.

Robbe Reddinger, a Brewers Hill resident, said he awoke to commotion and saw officers outside his window chasing the dog around an empty lot at Grundy and Dillon streets. Eventually officers cornered the dog in an area out of Reddinger's view.

After the dog had been cornered, Reddinger said, "I heard it yelp a few times. It was kind of a weird yelp, and then I didn't hear anything after that. Then they dragged it. There was one cop who drug it out of the corner to where I could see it again."

He said police dragged the dog with the control pole into the open, then shook the noose loose from around the dog's neck. An officer stood over Nala for about a minute before walking away, Reddinger said.

Palmere said Wednesday that the dog died after it had been detained with a dog-control pole and then its throat had been slit.

Gossard said she doesn't understand why police didn't just call her to the scene. She said her phone number was included on Nala's tags. Her dog had not bitten anyone before, she said, and was just scared.

"These people are supposed to be taking care of our community," Gossard said, "and I'm so horrified by what they did and it's completely unnecessary."

Rodriguez said no motive or provocation could justify the killing, adding that the department had "gone through great lengths" during animal-control training, he said.

Police are investigating whether the knife used was issued by police. Rodriguez said many officers carry knives, which is a common on-the-job tool.

"There is no procedures or training that justifies this behavior," Rodriguez said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

jgeorge@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justingeorge

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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