Dog's violent death inspires police training course in Fort Worth

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on October 24, 2012 at 6:27 PM

FORT WORTH — The shooting death of Lily the Border Collie at the hands of a Fort Worth police officer plays over and over in the minds of Mark and Cindy Boling.

"And then he turned toward Lily and put his arm out, and he fired his gun," said Cindy Boling, trembling a little as she recalled the scene for a video.

That video will now be played over and over in training.

"I started screaming and screaming. 'Mark, he shot our baby! He shot our little girl!'" Boling cried.

Police officers watched the video at the start a new eight-hour course on dealing with dogs during already stressful calls.

Trainer Jim Osorio asks for a show of hands in the police auditorium. "How many people here think they can handle a dog encounter without lethal force? I think all of you can," he said.

Osorio, a former cop, tells them there are dogs in about one in three households — nearly 80 million in all. He says officers shoot about 250,000 dogs a year... often needlessly.

"I'm going to train them whatever they carry can be used on an animal," Osario explained. "Clipboard, flare... whatever."

He demonstrated techniques with his own German Shepherd, Coral. She barked angrily when he raised a short baton, then calmed down, reflecting his own calm demeanor as he spoke to her.

Osario said lethal force is the last resort.

"You just come up to her nicely, and that's it," he said as Coral jumped to greet him.

Of course, Coral is his dog... police officers don't have that luxury.

"That firm tone of voice works a lot better than yelling and screaming," Osorio said. "And trying not to show fear... that's the biggest thing."

The Bolings said this police training is the biggest thing they could hope for as Lily's legacy.

Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead said the law forbids him from revealing the discipline the officer received for killing Lily in May. It happened during an investigation for copper theft.

The officer involved went to the wrong house.

Instead of suing, Mark and Cindy Boling asked that police get the additional training. "It was the right thing to do," Chief Halstead said. "The nightmare the Bolings have to live through is one I would not want for any of our residents. But I respect that they're taking this to the state and national level because it needs to be done."

Despite frequent encounters with dogs, Halstead said few departments offer similar training. It's hoped the classes will protect dogs and officers.

Officials said it will take about two years for all officers to take the course.

According to Fort Worth police statistics, there have been 109 animal shootings in the last three years, and 49 officers have filed compensation claims for dog bites.

The Bolings sat through Wednesday's class with officers.

"It's tremendous," Cindy Boling said. "It's tremendous."

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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