Dog's death prompts policy change at Sheriff's Office

Family seeks justice after Randall County Sheriff's Officer John Vaught shoots their dog on their property.

After nearly three weeks of review the Randall County Sheriffâ??s Office plans to provide additional training for officers during incidents involving aggressive animals.

On July 23, Deputy John Vaught was dispatched to 22100 FM1541 in reference to two loose dogs on the property. When Vaught arrived he found the two dogs at 22200 FM 1541. According to the incident report, requested by Pronews 7, Vaught exited the vehicle and approached the home.

"There was a white-and-black Australian Shepard that charged at me," Vaught stated in the report. That's when Vaught pepper-sprayed the animal, and said he was able to make it to the front door where he was greeted by the animal's owner, Toni Lynn Walker.

According to Walker she invited the deputy inside. They spoke for a few moments about the consequences of violating the leash law.

"We talked about the laws, and the law states if you live on less than five acres you have to have them tethered, but we live on more than five acres," Walker said.

Then footage from Vaught's vehicle captured him stepping off the front porch to leave the property, and it appears the dog, Blue, starts to run toward the deputy.

"The officer was only about 2-3 feet away from him, and he didn't even give me the time or the opportunity to yell at him or call him to me," Walker said. "I mean Blue was barking, but his absolute first reaction was to get out that gun and shoot him."

Vaught fired his weapon five times. Blue was hit twice, and a third time at Walker's request to keep him from suffering. Walker said although she's satisfied with the department's decision to provide additional training for officers, she still think the shooting was unjustified.

"He wasn't even reprimanded for what he did," Walker said. "That's what we want, and that's part of the reason we started 'Justice for Blue,'"

Since the shooting, Walker and her husband started a Facebook page, and it has many in the community outraged at the situation. Joel Richardson with the Randall County Sheriff's Office said the Facebook page contains a lot of misleading information. He said the Sheriff's Office is saddened by the situation, and that's why he's implementing change in policy.

"I don't have a requirement that says you have to get shot, bit or stabbed before you take action," Richardson said. "But I'm taking steps in changing policy."