New video of Winters, TX dog killing reignites public outrage

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: The following story contains graphic content about the shooting death of an animal some readers might find disturbing. Reader caution is advised.

The shooting and killing of a 3-year old Great Dane by the animal control officer in Winters, Texas on December 14 infuriated the community, as well as others throughout the state as the video went viral. Now, a new video has surfaced that may contradict the police department's account of the incident.

According to information regarding the original report posted on Concho Valley Homepage by KTAB on the day the dog was shot, the city's report of the shooting states, "The officer tried multiple times to make friendly contact with the dog, according to the report, including 'offering the back of his hand to the dog through the chain link fence, to which the dog tried to snap and bite him through."

The person who took the original cell phone video, Angela New, has now posted a new video from her home surveillance camera that faced the yard where the dog, Baxter, was shot 3 times by the Winters animal control officer. New's residence is directly across the street from the yard where the dog was shot.

Baxter, a 3 year old Great Dane, was shot by the Winters, TX animal control officer on the morning of December 14. A cell phone video captured part of the incident and has caused outrage from the public. 
Now, a new video from a witness has been released showing the officer and the dog walking in the back yard peacefully moments before Baxter is killed. In the video, Baxter is seen following the officer to the side of the yard where the officer exits the yard. The officer walks up to the fence and a few seconds later shoots Baxter twice. Approximately 2 minutes later, after being confronted from across the street by Angela New about Baxter suffering, the officer shot Baxter a third time, the last shot was fired into the dog's head.

New video shows animal control officer in the yard with the dog peacefully walking behind him

The dog's owners live next door to the yard where the dog was killed. The dog had jumped the fence into the neighbor's yard. The new video shows the animal control officer walking in the yard where the dog was enclosed.

In the video, the animal control officer coming around in the back yard from the far side of the house. Baxter is seen peacefully walking along behind the officer in the yard. The video doesn't show the dog snapping or biting at the animal control officer, as the original police incident report allegedly states.

Once at the gate, the animal control officer leaves the dog in the yard and walks outside the fence and talks to another Street Department city worker. A few seconds later, the animal control officer reaches over the fence and shoots the dog, twice. According to New, "That dog wasn't hurting anyone. He's been in that yard before. He's sat out there with the lady who lives in that house. I believe the animal control officer purposefully led Baxter away from the fence between the yards so that he could kill him without Baxter's owners knowing."

New is heard telling the two men, "I've watched this dog run around my neighborhood for days now, and he's never attacked any of us," New says in the video.

After shooting Baxter twice, the animal control officer and the other employee are seen standing and watching Baxter as he struggled to get up on his feet. In the original video, New stands across the street as the animal control officer yells to her that the dog "tried to bite me." New tells the two men that the animal is suffering. A few moments later, the animal control officer walks up to the fence again and fires the final shot into Baxter, this one striking Baxter in the head and killing him instantly.

Questions arise about the officer not attempting non-lethal options

The KTAB report also states, "The officer was unable to use a catch pole, deeming the action too dangerous to himself and risking allowing the dog back onto the streets, according to the report. In addition, the Winters PD says after all other options were exhausted, 'The decision was made to neutralize the dog by means of a firearm discharge,' the report states.'

The video does not show the animal control officer attempting to use non-lethal measures, such as a catch-pole or tranquilizer gun to remove the dog from the yard without harming the animal.

A screenshot from a video of two City of Winters employees moments before shooting a dog that had jumped into a neighbors yard. The video has since caused public outrage and scrutiny.

After shooting the dog in the head one time, according to the report, the animal control officer, “waited to determine if the dog had succumbed to the injury, before attempting to safely remove the dog.”

New says that there were 3 shots, not a single shot as the police report allegedly states, "He shot the dog once while I was backing out of my yard, I heard a second shot when I was making the block, then he shot it a 3rd time when I started taking video."

New says that the animal control officer and the other city employee "were standing there with their hands in their pockets laughing and joking while Baxter was struggling."

In the original cell phone video from New, the animal control officer tells her that the dog tried to bite him. It's a statement many in the community are saying isn't supported by the video showing the dog walking along peacefully in the yard with the officer.

Witness and Baxter's owners speak at Winters City Council meeting

According to Baxter's owners, Jessica and Cole Hooser, the officer never attempted to contact her family. She says that her husband was inside the house at the time the officer killed the dog. The family didn't know anything about the dog being killed until New's video was posted on social media.

Jessica Hooser said that no one has ever made a complaint against the dog, "We never received any reports or complaints from anyone, including the neighbor involved with the shooting." One of the two employees lives at the residence where the dog was killed.

Two City of Winters employees look at Baxter who jumped a fence to a neighbor's house and was in an enclosed yard. The dog's owners, who live next door, say they were not contacted before, or after the shooting of their dog.

Winters City Council issues brief statement

At the Winters City Council monthly meeting on December 20, Mayor Mark Burkhart read a statement that addressed the incident. The statement, in its entirety, reads:

An unfortunate incident has occurred here in Winters. Our deepest sympathy goes to the family for the loss of a family pet. Not just a pet, but a family member.

Your voices have been heard and the steps for change are in motion.

Chief Geyer (Winters police chief) has submitted the reports and possible charges against the animal control officer to the District Attorney's office. This information will be reviewed and the decision to move forward will be decided outside of Winters. If the decision is made to move forward with the case, an outside agency will be selected to conduct an independent investigation.

From tragedy comes change.

Our procedures on how to handle animals will have to be examined and reassessed. The handling of animals will be humanely as possible to ensure this does not happen again.

At the meeting, Jessica Hooser addressed the council after saying that the city declined to put the subject of Baxter's shooting on the agenda, "He may have been big, but he loved everybody. He never would bite anybody We just want to justice. Things could have definitely been different, like if they would have come and knocked on our door. They didn't. They never came and tried to contact us that they were having problems with our dog."

Seeking Justice for Baxter

Hooser said that they "just want justice for Baxter." Hooser said that she believes that the killing of her dog was premeditated, "You can obviously tell from both videos that the animal control officer was in the yard with Baxter, walking around with him with no problems, then two seconds later he goes and shoots him several times. So, obviously the truth is not being put out and that's what's scary. Hopefully something is done to prevent this from further happening again. Who knows what it could be next time."

The mayor thanked Hooser for speaking to the council, but they couldn't respond or discuss the matter otherwise since the subject wasn't on the agenda.

Once Hooser finished, Hector Reyna addressed the council about his concerns regarding the killing of the dog. "My main concern is if I have a city employee out there on the streets working under the police department, why did he not have a body camera on him? Especially if he's carrying a deadly weapon. He's going out and performing his job tasks with no body camera. He used his gun 3 times. Where those bullets could have landed, nobody knows."

Reyna went on to ask if the gun was the employee's personal gun, "Was the gun his? Was it personal? Was it issued? Those are my concerns and I'd like to get the answers in the future."

New then spoke to the council, apologizing to city employees and their families for threats that have been made since the original video was posted on December 14, "That (employees receiving threats) was not my intention whatsoever. I never expected this to get as big as it did. I don't want the City of Winters to look bad."

New then spoke about a cause that has picked up steam over the last 10 days, Justice for Baxter, "I do want justice for Baxter. I know what I saw the do was wrong. 30 minutes before the meeting I posted some videos that show the dog catcher in the back yard with the dog. The dog is walking in front of him wagging his tail. He is leading the the dog from one side of the house to the other where he does shoot him just a couple of seconds later. They did not do anything to try to prevent a shooting. It's not right."

The original video has been viewed over 12,000 times, with 670 comments and 570 shares. The new video showing the dog walking with the animal control officer has reignited the passion for "Justice for Baxter" in the community.

Just as Reyna pointed out, there were questions over whether or not the officer used his personal firearm. Hooser was concerned that the city employees weren't in uniform. The information in the original report was questioned by New and the Hoosers.

After the meeting, Mayor Mark Burkhart commented on his statement, "I'm trying to lower the temperature in the community. We're going to handle this matter."

New owns Gypsy Threads, Tees & More in Winters. She printed up shirts with a picture of Baxter with the caption, "JUSTICEFORBAXTER."

After the meeting, Hooser commented on the community's reaction, "It's been amazing. I work at the school and the next day (after the shooting) people were coming up to me and apologizing. We appreciate the support. If Angela hadn't been recording, we wouldn't have known what happened to him (Baxter)."

Hooser expressed concerned that the original report was allegedly issued within a couple of hours of the incident.

KRUN radio station owner and Winters resident Jeff Smith was also at the council meeting. Afterward, he expressed concern over the handling of the situation, "There are questions that have to be answered, such as; How are you (City of Winters) looking into the police department because there was obviously something amiss there that was a very big deal? Why was the (initial) investigation so one-sided and closed within a 3-hour window? Are we looking into the police department and why they closed that investigation so quickly? The fact that our police chief missed it, and didn't think it was a big deal, and didn't even show up for the city council meeting tonight is disturbing."

The Runnels County Register has submitted Freedom of Information requests to the Winters Police Department for the original report of the dog shooting, as well as requesting any previous complaints against the dog.