Dover police defend dog’s shooting but change procedures

 

The late De’Quan Dukes of Dover is seen with deceased family pet Brown. (Submitted photo/Dukes family)

DOVER — Jasmin Dukes believes her beloved family pet was needlessly shot to death during an early morning raid on Aug. 2.

She’s unhappy, too, with how “Brown” was handled after meeting his violent demise.

Her slain dog’s carcass was loaded into the back of a city sanitation truck and hauled away for disposal.

Dover Police maintain the reportedly aggressive Italian Mastiff was gunned down to protect officers and others nearby, but admit that their post-death actions could have been handled better.

If there’s a next time, authorities will transfer remains to the Kent County SPCA for proper procedures. Dover PD established a memorandum of understanding with the animal shelter as a response to the incident early last month. The MOU was first reported by television station WBOC earlier this week.

“These situations are not frequently encountered by our agency,” Dover PD spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

“As with most agencies, you create policies and procedures based on experiences your department faces and this was no different.”

In the rare instances when pets are present during a raid, they mostly flee and hide, authorities said.

“However, this dog was used as a barrier and prevented our officers from making arrests without threat of injury,” Cpl. Hoffman explained.

In a news release, police described officers being forced to “euthanize” the animal.”

Responding officers have been injured by canines in other cases, though more details were not immediately available.

The saga began just after 6 a.m. when a Special Operations Response Team executed a search warrant in the 100 block of Alonzo Drive.

Ms. Dukes was sleeping on a front room couch when awakened by her door crashing open with a battering ram.

“I understand they had a search warrant to conduct, but all they had to do was knock on the door and I would have let them in,” she said.

“Instead, a whole long line of them came in with big guns and smoke bombs, shining lights on the top of their helmets, yelling and cussing, and all that.

“I was handcuffed and told to just ‘Shut the (expletive) up while they headed toward the bedroom.”

Entering the bedroom

Officers were conducting a firearms/gang investigation, police said, and two suspects were located in a small back bedroom upon entry.

Dover resident Jasmin Dukes wears a T-shirt with a photo of her late son De’Quan and family pet Brown. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

A large bed allowed just a few SORT members into the bedroom, police said. Ms. Dukes said four persons were sleeping inside at the time.

According to Cpl. Hoffman, “One suspect had a handgun in his hand and refused to cooperate with commands to drop the weapon numerous times.”

Police “ordered another suspect to put the dog in the closet due to it being aggressive. (A suspect) had the dog partially in a closet but was unable to secure the dog or the closet door due to space,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

In order to take one suspect into custody, police would be “forced into an encounter with the dog that was being very aggressive,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

“At that point, our obligation is to preserve the safety and lives of our officers, but also the suspects we are taking into custody.”

When police made their move toward the suspects, an officer shot the dog four or five times. Ms. Dukes claims her pet was shot in the head and Brown “didn’t have much face left when it was over.”

Five-year-old Brown weighed approximately 160 pounds at the time of his passing.

“The dog was very large and the officer acted until the threat was no longer present and the suspects could be taken into custody safely,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Officers located three 9mm handguns, various ammunition, and 20.3 grams of marijuana during the operation, authorities said, and two felony arrests resulted.

According to Ms. Dukes, her son had safely secured Brown in a closet before an officer allegedly opened its door and “viciously shot a family member, our family pet.”

With Brown eliminated as a supposed threat, Ms. Dukes claims officers wrapped the fallen dog up in her late son’s clothes for removal.

That especially galled Ms. Dukes, since her son De’Quan cared for the pet before being shot to death while sitting in a vehicle at Pine Grove Apartments on June 27.

“It was like I had lost a part of my son all over again,” she said of Brown’s death.

Police then contacted the sanitation department to take the late canine from the scene.

A front door needed to be completely replaced after entry, Ms. Dukes said, and a damaged frame needed fixing. Some blood-stained carpet also required cleaning and eventual replacement, she said.

Losing family members

Adding to the heartache, Ms. Dukes said, “Brown was already struggling with my son not being there. Animals are very smart, and I could hear him crying when he realized De’Quan wasn’t coming home.

“Animals go through things, they can feel things, too. Due to the actions of police, we’ve now lost another loved one.”

The plan had been to cremate Brown and scatter some remains at her son’s grave site and keep others for the home, Ms. Dukes said.

“I missed out on the closure for him,” she said of the canine.

With no agreement with the SPCA at that time and it being early in the morning, options for disposal were limited, police said.

For three days, according to Ms. Dukes, she questioned police about Brown’s whereabouts and “just kept getting the runaround.

“They said he was needed for evidence, but what do you need a dead dog’s body for? It just doesn’t make sense.”

Since then, Chief of Police Marvin Mailey and Deputy Chief Tim Stump “have both met with the family and expressed their condolences on behalf of our agency for the loss of their pet, and assured them that steps were taken to ensure that pet remains will be properly disposed of in the future,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Ms. Dukes’ son Khalil Seward, 19, was charged with illegal gang participation, possession of firearm/ammunition by person prohibited (five counts), use of animal to avoid capture, resisting arrest, and possession of marijuana. A $44,500 cash bond was revoked on the pending felony charge.

Equan Barber, 22, was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and felony resisting arrest with force.

Based on past incidents, Ms. Dukes acknowledged, “My sons were not always on the right side of the law, but they were also young men who made mistakes they could learn from and live a more positive lifestyle.”

While Ms. Dukes believes that “There are some good cops, they are not all bad,” they also are “covering for the officers who do wrong. If you’re going to do the job, do it in the right way to keep the community safe.”

Working as a nurse and providing for her two other children living at home has kept Ms. Dukes focused while pushing through a troubling personal stretch.

“I’m a single mom, I’m a God- fearing person, I’m a Christian,” she said. “By the grace of God, I have a relationship with him so I can stand and take one step at a time every day.”

Earlier police contact

The deadly incident wasn’t Brown’s first contact with police. On July 21, 2017, officers investigated a bite complaint that sent a 4-year-old family member to the Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital Emergency center for treatment.

According to a post-bite quarantine order filed by police, Brown’s current rabies vaccination had expired on June 11, 2014. Ms. Dukes signed an agreement for the quarantine, according to authorities.

“Ms. Dukes who stated that Brown is not current on the rabies inoculation but they had planned to take him prior to this bite,” a responding officer wrote in a report.

Following Delaware law, Brown was placed in a 10-day quarantine.

The victim’s father reported his son tripped over the dog while playing inside and attempting to open a door, “causing Brown to become startled …”

The wound was described as a scratch to the top of the hand by the dog’s teeth and an “apparent minor injury.”

Ms. Dukes defended the dog’s actions in wounding her nephew, explaining that the child had unlocked a door and entered the room.

“I don’t know if Brown was sleeping, or irritated, or what, but he was in his own space that was suddenly invaded when it happened,” Ms. Dukes said. “That’s not like him at all to respond that way, but he did for whatever reason.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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