Lebanon, Pa. —In addition to items on their official agenda, the Lebanon City Council heard remarks from two attendees who spoke about the police shooting of a pet dog named Gunner, which occurred earlier in July.
Jackie Keeney spoke to the council first, and in her opening remarks she said, “appalled would be the single word to describe what I felt on so many levels after last month’s Lebanon City council meeting.”
Keeney rebuked the comments of a Lebanon City Council member who, she said, applauded the passion of residents inspired to organize after the incident that claimed Gunner’s life.
Keeney said that the councilman who made that comment failed to understand that the passion that has driven protests of the event is a “hate passion.”
Keeney said that through their actions, the Lebanon City Police clearly displayed their refusal “to look past self-pride” by not admitting that Gunner’s death could have been easily avoided.
Keeney said, “Shame on you Police Chief Breiner and city officials. It is time to put a plan in place that not only prevents another senseless killing, but also holds the officers accountable.”
In closing Keeney said, “Ultimately the accountability for the loss of Gunners life belongs to the officer who pulled the trigger, his colleagues who were assisting him, the Chief of Police for lack of proper of training, and Mayor Capello for lack of proper policy.”
Denise Derr of 11 Leno drive, Palmyra PA, also spoke in reference to the Gunner incident.
Derr said that while she does not currently live in Lebanon City, her parents do, and she often brings her two dogs into the city when she visits them. She said that in the wake of Gunner’s shooting, she is afraid to bring her dogs into the city because she believes they could be the next “casualties of the Lebanon City Police Department.”
Derr said that in the video she saw, she saw “three large men cornering a frightened dog.”
Derr said, “The death of gunner was not only unfortunate, Mayor Capello, but someone made a mistake. A mistake that cost a life. A mistake that warrants a root cause analysis, and a corrective action plan that includes mandatory training for every officer of Lebanon City.”
Derr said that she is shocked to see that the city is refusing to accept free services/training offered by organizations such as the “Vetting Zoo.”
Derr said that the group has attempted to offer their services several times, and that “they even attempted to attend the national night out in Lebanon City to educate the public on how to prevent situations like Gunner’s from happening again, and they were denied access from the city.”
In response to the public comments, Mayor Sherry Capello said that the city is in the process of hiring a k-9 consultant to obtain better training for its officers. She said that the city has selected the Pennsylvania Academy for Animal Care and Control, because of its founder’s experience working in law enforcement.
Council Chairperson Joe Morales said, “I don’t believe there is anyone in this room, anyone that is with the mayor’s staff, anyone on council that takes this lightly.”
Additionally Morales said, “I can assure you that myself as a councilman. I will be following up on this as well to make sure that we do look into this matter.” … “Our hands are a bit tied right now because of the litigation.”
When asked if the council members have seen the body cam footage of the incident, Morales and Mayor Capello said that due to the pending litigation and current negotiations between the city and the owners of Gunner, the council has not seen the video themselves.
Additionally, after being asked, Mayor Capello said that the Police Chief is conducting an internal investigation into the situation.
The next pre-city council meeting will be on Thursday, September 22nd at 4:45 pm in the Dixon Council Chamber located at 735 Cumberland Street, and the City Council meeting will be on Monday, September 26th, at 6:30 in the Dixon Council Chamber located at 735 Cumberland Street.