A Louisiana police officer who flippantly smirked after shooting a friendly, tethered dog while his owner was handcuffed has resigned, just before “final disciplinary action” was taken against him.
Brandon Carpenter, a traveling musician from Portland, Maine, had his Newfoundland-golden retriever mix Arzy with him while visiting friends in Lake Charles, LA. They were walking around Sulphur, LA with another friend from Maine, Logan Laliberte. To dodge a rainstorm, the trekkers sought shelter in the back of an unlocked box truck in the parking lot of the Southwest Daily News.
Suspicious newspaper office workers called police, who sent officer Brian Thierbach to respond. The officer immediately became confrontational, according to the dog owner.
“He asked us how long we had been here, and I said, ‘Five seconds.’ He said that was five seconds too long,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter insisted that he and his friend were respectful and accommodated the officer’s requests. Thierbach asked him to get his dog, and watched as Carpenter tethered Arzy’s leash to a fence. He and Laliberte were forced to lie on the ground as they were handcuffed, facing away from Arzy. Then a gunshot rang out.
Carpenter couldn’t see what took place, but Eric Midkiff, circulation manager for the news, had a perfect view. He had pulled into the parking lot after the men were cuffed, and from 20 feet away, could see Thierbach on the back of the truck, petting Arzy.
“The dog was rubbing up against the cop,” Midkiff said. “He would rub the dog’s back and then push him away. All of a sudden, he just jumped down and shot the dog in the head.”
“I saw my dog convulse and shiver and take his last breath,” Carpenter said. “I saw the blood start to run down his face. I’m watching my dog die while I’m sitting in cuffs… He (the officer) thought he could shoot my dog and get away with it.”
Carpenter asked Thierbach why he shot his dog, and the officer “smirked” and said that the dog “nipped my toes.”
Midkiff was adamant that no bite happened.
“That dog did not bite that officer,” he avered. “The dog was wagging his tail, his tongue was hanging out.”
Carpenter is devastated. He describes 14-month-old as an “incredible friendly dog,” who had never been aggressive towards anyone.
“He could be backed up by a loud Chihuahua,” Carpenter said. “He was just a big teddy bear that you had to feed.”
The Sulphur PD responded accordingly – a refreshing change.
“I would like to take this opportunity to address the concerns in reference to the incident which occurred during the morning of April 28,” said Sulphur Police Chief Lewis Coats in a formal statement. “I want to assure you that this incident is being taken seriously and is being investigated thoroughly.”
Carpenter wasn’t going to take the trigger-happy officer’s actions lying down. He decided to stay in Sulphur until justice could be served for Arzy, but had no idea how impactful his story was. A fundraiser was started and $5,000 was donated to provide lodging for the man. A facebook page called Justice for Arzy was also created, and offers t-shirts and Arzy-shaped window decals to show support. Carpenter has been overwhelmed by the amount of support he has received.
Thankfully, there is actually some justice in this tragic situation. The investigation determined that Thierbach “violated the Sulphur Police Department’s Departmental Policy and Procedure regarding Use of Force and Personal Conduct and Behavior.” Thierbach resigned before he could face “final disciplinary action.”
“I am a dog lover and I am deeply saddened by this incident,” Chief Coats said in the release issued Thursday afternoon. “I realize there is nothing I can say that would take away the hurt this incident has caused Mr. Brandon Carpenter. The actions of Officer Thierbach did not represent what I expect from the officers of the Sulphur Police Department. Those of us who serve as law enforcement officers do so with the responsibility of serving and protecting the community as professionals. The resignation of Officer Thierbach was accepted so that the officers and community can heal and move forward.”
Hopefully now Carpenter can heal, too. He calls the resignation “a couple steps in the right direction.”
“At this point, it’s all I could have hoped for. I do think he should be brought to full justice,” he said. “Now I’m going through some inner turmoil. Can’t I just forgive and forget? I’ve certainly made some mistakes in my life. But nobody’s above the law. I had to pay for my mistakes. That’s why I learned not to do them again.”
The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office is now proceeding with a criminal investigation of the shooting.