The police chief in Augusta on Wednesday said he has received death threats over the fatal shooting of a service dog last week by one of his officers.
A vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday across from the Department of Public Safety building, according to Facebook posts by organizers of the event. It’s also been described as a “protest” in response to the killing of Midnite on the afternoon of April 13 in the 1600 block of Cedar Dale on the east side of Augusta.
Alan Fitzgerald, a veteran who was the owner of the slain dog, said the gathering would be “a peaceful event,” but otherwise refused to comment.
“We respect their right to have the vigil and we respect their right to protest, as long as they do it lawfully,” Chief Tyler Brewer said.
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office will provide security for the vigil.
“I think it’s best that we try to keep a very low profile so that we don’t end up agitating the people that are at the vigil,” Brewer said. “We want them to have a good vigil and a good protest, and by our presence we don’t want to get in the way of that.”
Brewer said people have called his home and made death threats to him and his family over the shooting of Fitzgerald’s dog last week. Death threats have been made against the officer who shot the dog as well, he said.
Police have given the following account of how the shooting occurred.
A police officer and an animal control officer went to Fitzgerald’s residence just after 2 p.m. last Thursday to investigate the report of his dog attacking a neighbor’s dog. When the officers arrived at the trailer, the front door was open but a glass screen door was shut.
The animal control officer knocked on the screen door, prompting Midnite to charge and hit the door. The dog slammed into the screen door, breaking its hinge.
Midnite charged the animal control officer, who fell backward on the porch and hit his head. The dog lunged at the officer and was in midair when the police officer shot it.
The dog died at the scene.
Fitzgerald said last week that he was in the bathroom when the shooting occurred and did not see it happen, but he has fervently disputed the police version of events.
“I’m open to other evidence,” Brewer said Wednesday, but he added that evidence at the scene and witness statements corroborate the accounts given by the police officer and the animal control officer.
“They’ve also mentioned they’re willing to take a polygraph test to verify their veracity in this matter,” Brewer said.
Fitzgerald was issued two citations and is scheduled to appear in court next week.