By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
An investigation into whether Melrose’s police chief was justified in shooting and killing a dog has been turned over to state police, according to the mayor of the village.
Mayor Lance Pyle said he involved state police in the interest of having an unrelated third party conduct the investigation.
Pyle ordered an administrative investigation after a Wisconsin couple visiting Melrose for Old Timers’ Day filed a complaint against Police Chief Mike Trammell. They accused Trammell of inhumanely shooting what they said was an 8-month-old German shepherd puppy.
Trammell wrote in his report of the Aug. 13 incident the dog appeared emaciated and possibly was suffering from a gunshot wound. He wrote in the report he “put down” the dog for humane reasons.
Trammell has been temporarily relieved of any animal control duties pending completion of the investigation, Pyle said.
Marna Pyle-Trammell, no relation to the mayor, defended her husband’s actions. She cited a village ordinance allowing animals that are suffering or vicious to be destroyed for humane reasons.
“He doesn’t feel good about it. It never makes him happy to have to euthanize an animal, but sometimes it’s necessary — you don’t want to see an animal suffering,” she said.
Trammell has declined comment, but said his wife is speaking on his behalf.
An attorney, Pyle-Trammell said she cannot represent her husband if legal proceedings arise.
“The general consensus among most people is that he acted under color of law that the dog was euthanized because it was emaciated and was deemed to be shot and did not appear to be an owned dog. Had it not been for the apparent gunshot wound, the dog would have simply been held,” she said.
The dog’s owner, Steve Southworth, said his 2-year-old daughter had painted red nail polish on the dog’s shoulder. Southworth said the puppy escaped from a trailer in which it was being housed.
Pyle-Trammell said Trammell did not examine the apparent gunshot wound on the dog closely because it would have put him in dangerous proximity to the animal’s mouth.
“Apparently the nail polish appeared to be a gunshot wound at the time. If they say it was nail polish then so be it — I don’t know what it was; he doesn’t know what it was,” she said.
If found in violation of city ordinance, Trammell could face a range of penalties from reprimand to dismissal, Lance Pyle said.
Capt. Daniel Lopez of the New Mexico State Police said his office is conducting a criminal investigation to determine if Trammell’s actions constituted criminal misconduct through a violation of city ordinance or state law.
Lopez said the investigation could take weeks.