Owners of dog shot by Loveland police officer speak out about incident: “It’s not right what they’re doing” – The Denver Post

Wendy Love and Jay Hamm had owned their 14-month-old Staffordshire terrier and boxer mix Herkimer for six months when a Loveland police officer shot him in June 2019. Now, they are hoping for punishment for those who “wrote it off” and for change in the entire department.

They described Herkimer as a loyal, playful and fun dog who always wanted to be involved.

“He was always wanting to please you,” Love said.

His best friend was Max, a roughly 8-year-old black lab mix who Herkimer — Herkie to Love and Hamm — would play and wrestle with. Love said that Max would often walk around their small Coal Creek Canyon neighborhood and sometimes Herkimer would follow, but would return to the house before Love had to go out to get Max.

In 2019, Love, Hamm, Herkimer, Max and their elderly Rhodesian ridgeback Bubba stopped in a parking lot to fix up an ice box while delivering firewood. The business owner called the police to check out what they were doing, telling dispatchers “that someone had tampered with the dumpster lock on the property once and he didn’t want the truck occupants to mess with it.”

Soon after they stopped, Herkimer was shot by Loveland Police Department officer Mat Grashorn who was responding to the trespassing call and saw the dog as a threat; several days later Herkimer had to be euthanized.

The couple said their entire family, including Herkimer’s best friend Max, has not been the same since. They said Herkimer was not acting in a threatening way and the shooting was unnecessary.

Love and Hamm are now represented by Sarah Schielke of the Life and Liberty Law Office in a civil lawsuit against the LPD and the officers involved in the 2019 shooting.

In her initial release of the lawsuit, Schielke included two pieces of video footage, one a clipped together video showing the incident in a more concise package as well as the unedited body-worn camera footage from Grashorn.

Two days after the lawsuit went public the city of Loveland and the LPD announced  that they would be opening an investigation into the incident.

On Tuesday, and over two years after the shooting, Love and Hamm sat down with the Reporter-Herald to talk about their experience and what they hope happens going forward.

The shooting

The couple said they were out June 29, 2019, to deliver firewood around town. Love said that on especially hot days when a lot of deliveries needed to be made, they look for a shady place to pull over and get the dogs some water.  That day, they decided on the lot in the 900 block of North Wilson Avenue.

“We knew of a lot of the businesses around there,” she said. “We have never seen a car in the parking lot there.”

Hamm added there had never been a sign in that parking lot saying not to trespass.

Love said at the time, Max was on a leash while Bubba and Herkimer were both off leash and relied on voice commands, which Love said they were good at following.

Both said they had no idea why the shooting happened that day. They said in the moment they were just shocked; Love said she didn’t even hear the shots go off.

Hamm, on the other hand, said he knew right away.

“I said to Wendy ‘he just shot our dog,’” he said.  Later he added “It was just something that was so unnecessary.”

“It feels like (Grashorn) had some other agenda that day,” Love said.

After the shooting

The couple said that while some officers who arrived tried to help, others were immediately confrontational. Hamm said one officer arrived and the first thing she said as she got out of her vehicle was that they had them on video breaking into the building they had parked near.

“I said, ‘We didn’t even go within 20 feet of the building,’” Love said. “So I said, ‘We are glad you have video.’”

After finally getting Herkimer to the vet, Love and Hamm said the price for helping their dog began to climb and climb. They were told that animal control was going to be seizing the dog after surgery because he was categorized as a dangerous dog.

Herkimer was taken to Colorado State University, Love said, after he was seized from his owners. Eventually, Love said, the decision was made to put down Herkimer because of what he was going through and the long-lasting effects the shooting would have had.

The couple said that following the incident over the next year they were in contact with the LPD about what they wanted to do. However, Hamm said, the back and forth never led to anything.

During this time, the lawsuit claims, an internal investigation into the incident was launched and Chief Bob Ticer and other supervisory staff reviewed the body-worn camera footage and report and eventually declared Grashorn’s use of lethal force was justified.

For the next two years, the couple grieved and decided what to do next. Love said one of the difficulties she found herself in was the fact that she wanted Grashorn off the LPD, but she knew that wasn’t going to happen. Talks with lawyers did not pay off and, Love said, a police friend of hers said it would be tough to go after the “good old boys network” of the LPD.

Love said this time was very difficult for the family as they grieved the loss of Herkimer. She said they have not been able to live in their cabin since the shooting and now reside in Berthoud. She said it is too quiet at their old home.

“I felt like our life totally dissolved right there,” Love said. “We were really happy and everything went to hell right then.”

The couple added the incident has had a dramatic toll on Max, Herkimer’s best friend. Hamm said when they got finally got home, they couldn’t get Max to leave the truck. Love said when they revisit their cabin, Max gets as depressed as they do.

But, after two years of dealing with the loss of their dog and the frustrations with being told Grashorn did nothing wrong, the couple hired Schielke.

They said they hope that, with the lawsuit in 8th Judicial District Court, those involved in “writing off” the incident are punished. Hamm said he hopes that there is change in the department. He added that he believes no one in Loveland is safe with how things are at the LPD.

“I just hope things change at that police force,” Hamm said. “It’s not right what they are doing; they’re hurting people.”

The police department, through its spokesman, declined to provide any additional comment on the situation.

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