MINNEAPOLIS - When Jenny Hankerson received a phone call notifying her that police were at her St. Paul home with a search warrant, she asked if her son was OK. Then, because she previously had dogs that were killed by police, she inquired about her pups.
Hankerson’s 13-year-old son — who had stayed home sick — was fine. Her dogs were not, an officer told her.
Hankerson soon learned the Minneapolis police SWAT team, which was executing the search warrant, shot two of her dogs. One died and the other was injured.
Minneapolis police said, in a Thursday statement, that dogs charged at officers from upstairs and two ran directly at police.
“The officers were forced to fire at these two aggressive dogs to protect themselves from what appeared to be imminent harm,” the statement continued. “The two dogs that were charging were very close to the officers when fired upon.”
Hankerson wasn’t home when police arrived; she said she was heading for a job interview. Her 20-year-old niece — who was downstairs — told Hankerson she heard a knock, the door kicked in, the police announce their presence and then gunshots.
Hankerson said the dogs that were shot are calm and friendly, which leads her to believe they would not have charged at officers.
“Pit bulls aren’t the dangerous animals everybody makes them out to be,” she said.
The search warrant in the 1600 block of Bush Avenue on Tuesday was for a felony weapons charge in which a person was suspected of being armed, according to Minneapolis police. Police said they recovered a handgun from the East Side home.
Officers later arrested two men, ages 22 and 38, at a different location. One is a tenant in the home’s basement and the other is his friend, said Hankerson, who said the gun is not connected to her family and she was not aware that it was in the home.
The dog that was killed, Blu, was 1 year old. The dog’s father, Conan, was shot in the foot and head, Hankerson said. He has shattered bones and they won’t know how much damage his eye sustained until he begins to heal. She has established a GoFundMe for veterinary expenses at gofundme.com/help-save-conan.
Hankerson has been through a similar experience before. In 2015, she said Minneapolis police who were executing a search warrant in Frogtown shot and killed two of her pit bulls. She said she learned the warrant was for the previous tenants.
“I’m at a loss about what to do,” Hankerson said Thursday. “I think this could have been handled better.”
Minneapolis police said they use the SWAT team for high-risk warrants.
“Many times planning and preparation can prevent an animal dispatch during a high risk warrant, but it cannot guarantee it will not become necessary, as it was in this case unfortunately,” police said in the statement.