A Wrightsville-area man whose dog was killed by police Thursday morning said he doesn't believe a state police trooper needed to shoot the 8-year-old Rottweiler/Labrador retriever mix named Ace.
The trooper fired three times at Ace about 8:30 a.m. in the yard of Jeff Bletz's Gilbert Lane home in Lower Windsor Township, hitting the dog with the final shot, according to Bletz.
"Ace came and laid down at my feet and died," he said. "This is animal cruelty. That dog never hurt anybody."
But Lower Windsor Township Police Chief Tim Caldwell, who witnessed the shooting, said he doesn't think the trooper did anything wrong.
"I feel the trooper acted appropriately, based on what he was dealing with at the time," the chief said. "You're looking at a situation where you're dealing with a large breed of dog. The reality is, if it had been a pocket poodle, it probably wouldn't have (been shot). But (the trooper) acted in accordance with his training and his understanding of the situation."
Internal probe: Trooper Rob Hicks, a state police spokesman, said an internal investigation into the matter is ongoing. He declined to release the trooper's name.
"At the end of the day, even though it's not a human being (who was shot), it was still a use of force and the trooper did discharge his weapon," Hicks said. "So an internal investigation will take place to determine if his use of force was justified."
State police and Lower Windsor Township Police were assisting members of the U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force and Lancaster City Police, who were there to serve a warrant on Bletz's 25-year-old daughter, Kayla Bletz, Caldwell confirmed.
She is wanted on robbery and simple assault charges filed April 25 by Lancaster City Police, and also wanted on a bench warrant for violating her probation on a bad-check case in Lancaster County, according to court records.
Jeff Bletz said his daughter no longer lives with him and is in a treatment facility.
'Swift and aggressive': According to Hicks, the trooper who shot Ace was assigned to the perimeter of the home.
"He was confronted by a large Rottweiler, which closed the distance in a swift and aggressive fashion, and the trooper was forced to neutralize the animal," Hicks said. "No trooper ever wants to have to discharge their weapon, whether at a human being or an animal. But sometimes we're put in a situation where you have to protect other people or protect yourself, and this happens to be one of those situations."
The trooper had no way of knowing the dog's intentions, according to Hicks.
"It happens so quickly, you have to make a split-second decision," he said.
Dog 'friendly': But Jeff Bletz said Ace was a friendly, loving family dog that never bit anyone and wasn't going to bite the trooper. Ace would, however, growl at trespassers.
"It's his yard — it's his property," Bletz said. "They've got Tasers, they've got pepper spray. They didn't even give me a chance to call him over. He didn't have to lose his life. I don't understand it at all."
Bletz said he and Ace had just walked out of the home; Bletz went to his garage while Ace did his business and ate some grass.
'Don't shoot him!': Bletz said he saw police walk onto his yard, then heard a woman walking by scream, "Don't shoot him!"
That's when the trooper fired three times, according to Bletz, who said two bullets went into the ground in front of his home, while the third bullet struck Ace in his side, behind his front leg.
He questioned how Ace could have been shot in the side if he was charging straight at the trooper.
The Bletz family had Ace since he was a puppy.
"He's like a member of the family. He's like my kid," Bletz said. "I buried him in my yard."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.