An investigation into a possible burn ban violation in the early Saturday morning hours of July 14, ended with the shooting of a pit bull dog, and stories regarding the incident are conflicting.
Officer Javier Castro, who is an officer with the Horseshoe Bay Police Department, was patrolling in the area of Clayton Nolen Drive when he noticed what appeared to be an open burning fire adjacent to an apartment complex, according to police reports.
At approximately 1:22am on July 14, Officer Castro reportedly stopped at 317 Clayton Nolan Drive to investigate the fire. Llano County was under a Burn Ban at the time of the incident, and police say that previous warnings about open fires had been issued to residents at this location.
Castro reported that as he was approaching the group gathered around the fire, he had to cross over a drainage ditch, stepping on narrow boards. It was then that the officer says he saw a large pit bull running towards him, allegedly baring his teeth and says that he yelled at the group to call the dog back, but that no one attempted to stop the animal.
The officer reported that the dog came within an estimated three feet of him, and felt he was about to be attacked, so he drew his duty weapon and shot the dog in the head one time.
According to Hali Nickes, though, that scenario is incorrect. Hali, who, along with Joseph (Joey) Nickes owned the dog, Presley, says that what happened that night was wrong.
Nickes says that they did in fact have a fire burning, but that it was covered. She also says that the group watched a police officer circle the area three or four times prior to stopping.
She says that when Officer Castro did stop, he turned off all of his lights and approached them in the dark, without a flashlight and did not announce himself.
She said that between their yard and where the officer approached is a wooden bridge over a ditch that is approximately nine feet long. According to her account, Presley was on one side of the bridge, Officer Castro the other.
Nickes alleges that the officer called out, “Sir, get your dog,” one time, and that before they could react, shot Presley in the head.
The Nickes had owned Presley for eight years.
Joseph Nickes, 34, was issued citations for Burn Ban Violation and Allowing an Animal to Run at Large.
According to a press release from the HSB PD, an investigation revealed that there had been numerous complaints logged by the department by neighbors, including a complaint that Presley had attacked another dog. Joey Nickes had also been cited for allowing the dog to run at large prior to Saturday’s incident.
They also stated that during follow-up interviews, witnesses that night confirm that no attempt was made to control the dog.
Nickes says that had they been given the chance, all it would have taken to stop the dog was a snap of the fingers or for Joey to say Presley’s name, and the dog would have sat. She said that the dog was well trained and well behaved. She also said that the officer knew Joey and the dog by name and had been around the dog before.
HSB PD says that this is not the first time an officer has had to ‘put down’ an attacking pit bull. According to reports, in 2007 a pit bull dog attempted to attack a 13-year-old girl who was waiting on a school bus. An animal control officer, who was in the area at the time, saw the animal attacking the girl and proceeded to defend her with a long pole until a police officer could arrive on the scene. When the officer arrived, he reportedly observed the situation, and then shot the dog.