TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Residents still angry over a southern Idaho police officer's fatal shooting of a lunging pet dog launched an effort Tuesday to recall the mayor and other leaders of the tiny city of Filer, days after the officer returned to the force.
Officer Tarek Hassani returned to his regular patrol shift on Saturday, two months after the shooting that another police agency called justified, the Twin Falls Times-News reported (http://bit.ly/1jrM2jV ).
After the shooting, officials in the city of just over 2,500 people held public hearings but decided to keep Hassani on the force. That angered some residents, who accused officials of not doing enough. Petitions to recall Mayor Rick Dunn and all four City Council members were filed Tuesday.
Dunn told The Associated Press that residents have every right to seek a recall. He didn't speculate on whether the attempt to oust him would be successful.
"I think they're going to do their best to make the recall work," he said. "They only needed 20 (signatures) to start the process, and they've gotten that far."
Recall organizers gathered 20 signatures for each city leader's recall petition, a procedural step that triggers an official drive. That gives organizers 75 days to try to get a larger amount of signatures, a required 201 per official. That figure is 20 percent of the number of voters registered in the last city election. If Twin Falls County approves the petitions, the city will hold a recall election.
Hassani was placed on administrative leave shortly after he shot and killed a 7-year-old black Labrador named Hooch on Feb. 8. The officer responded to a call of dogs running loose at a home in Filer when two of the animals began to circle him. Video taken by a police dashboard-mounted camera shows Hooch and another dog barking at the officer and sometimes lunging toward him. Hassani kicked at Hooch before shooting him.
The dog's death launched protests and fiery testimony at Filer City Council meetings, where many residents called for Hassani's firing. An investigation by the Police Department of Nampa, about 150 miles northwest of Filer, found the shooting was justified. But the independent inquiry questioned why the officer didn't stay in his vehicle, call the owner of the dogs or call for backup.
A phone number for Hassani could not be located.
Mark Deaton, a former longtime Filer resident, told the newspaper that he and others were concerned that there was no warning when the officer returned to work.
"What we found out through this whole ordeal is no officers in Idaho get any kind of training in aggressive dog handling," he said.
Filer officials have scheduled an eight-hour training session on how to deal with aggressive dogs for May 3. It will be required for Filer police, and officers from other towns also plan to attend.
Officers have had to escort people off Hassani's property since the shooting, Dunn said. The mayor said he's received death threats but that he didn't take them very seriously.
But it upset him that people across the country were getting a negative perceptive of his town based on the incident, Dunn said.
"I hate to see that," he said. "Filer is a nice town: We have good staff, good people here. Give Filer a little more credit than this."
Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com