Canyon County

Caldwell dog owner disputes police account of shooting

Alinah Stelly said she adopted Targaryon from outside a Notus gas station last summer. He was about 85 pounds at the time he died.
Alinah Stelly said she adopted Targaryon from outside a Notus gas station last summer. He was about 85 pounds at the time he died. Provided by Alinah Stelly

Caldwell police visited Alinah Stelly’s townhouse a week ago because they were looking for her older sister, who was wanted on a warrant.

“I tried to get her to turn herself in,” Stelly said. Another family member reported her sister to police, she said.

Stelly answered the door when police came knocking late in the morning of Aug. 18. She told police that her sister was in the house and she’d go get her. She recalls leaving the front door cracked open while she ran upstairs.

Her friend took her dog, Targaryon, upstairs. But on her way back down to the front door, the year-old German Shepherd-pitbull mix ran past her — and toward police waiting outside.

One officer used his wooden baton to try to block the barking, growling dog from coming out, Lt. Joey Hoadley said. But the dog pushed out and past first the first officer, then lunged at a second officer.

The second officer pulled out his handgun and shot the 85-pound dog one time in the head. The dog was so close that he had some concern about shooting himself in the foot, Hoadley said. The officer was not bitten.

“He backpedaled,” said Hoadley, who has reviewed body camera recordings from three officers involved. “The dog aggressed him so fast that pretty much the only option he had was to use the firearm.”

Stelly didn’t see it that way. She believes her dog was just doing what dogs do — sniffing and sizing up the strangers at their home. He’d never bitten anyone before, she said.

“He shot him in the face as he was smelling him,” she said. “He could have used something else, like pepper spray.”

I don’t understand why the gun was the easiest thing to grab.

Alinah Stelly

The 20-year-old, who works with children who have mental disabilities, said she believes she’s partially at fault because she did not put the dog in his kennel. She recalls that his hair was up, and “he does have a scary bark.” But that’s all, she said, “he was all bark, no bite.”

“Police officers come over all the time because of my neighbors,” she said. “They’ve never once pulled a gun. They gave me a chance to put him inside.”

The officer who shot Targaryon has never previously shot a dog, Hoadley said. He has received some basic training in canine encounters; other officers in the department have received more extensive, in-depth training in nonlethal methods of dealing with aggressive dogs.

These things happen in the blink of an eye. I don’t think there was an option for a nonlethal tool.

Lt. Joey Hoadley, Caldwell police

Hoadley said the video of the shooting will be available to anyone who puts in a public record request, once it has been reviewed by the city attorney.

Stelly said she “freaked out” after the dog was shot. She recalled telling police to get out of her house, then she lay on the ground trying to comfort her dying dog. She said it was about a half hour before police called animal control to come and get the dog.

Hoadley said there was a delay in calling animal control because police had to arrest Stelly’s sister, Crystal Holden, 30, on a probation violation. They also arrested Josiah S. Holden, 31, for failure to appear on an injury to a child case.

When Stelly went to retrieve her dog’s body, she was told that they cut his head open to check for rabies. She said she had proof that he was vaccinated for rabies and the dog did not bite anyone — so she wants to know why the test was done. She said they are going to keep the dog’s body for up to six weeks, and she needs to come up with about $200 to cover the cost of cremation.

Stelly could be charged with having a vicious animal at large, police said. Stelly said she has considered a lawsuit and plans to meet with an attorney.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller