Lawyers: Officer accused of killing dog was concerned about pregnant bite victim

Jeffrey Bolger's attorneys say officer was authorized by law to kill a shar-pei

  • Baltimore Police Agt. Jeffrey Bolger (right) leaves court with one of his attorneys after pleading not guilty to animal mutilation and animal cruelty charges in the death of shar-pei Napa in June.
Baltimore Police Agt. Jeffrey Bolger (right) leaves court… (Sun photo by Ian Duncan )
September 11, 2014|By Ian Duncan | The Baltimore Sun

Lawyers for a Baltimore police officer said he was legally authorized to kill a shar-pei in June and was acting to protect the unborn child of a woman the dog had bitten — an argument the bite victim said she was shocked to hear.

Jeffrey Bolger, a 22-year veteran, is charged with slitting the throat of the dog, named Nala. Bolger is alleged to have killed the dog even though it already had been brought under control with a dog pole.

Bolger appeared in court Thursday, and his attorney entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf to two counts of animal mutilation, one of animal cruelty and one of misconduct in office.

The animal's death sparked outrage, but a court filing by Bolger's attorneys lays out a version of the dog's demise that is sympathetic to the 49-year-old officer.

Police were called after the dog bit a pregnant woman, the lawyers wrote. After it was restrained with a dog pole, the dog began fighting back and biting at the pole — a struggle Bolger's lawyers say lasted for over an hour.

A medic at the scene told the officers that the dog needed to be tested for rabies urgently, according to the filing. But the police were not equipped to sedate the dog or put it in an animal carrier, the lawyers wrote, so Bolger decided to kill the animal in the safest way he could think of.

"Bolger considered using his firearm, but he determined that there was too much danger of a ricochet bullet injuring bystanders," his lawyers wrote. "Instead, he used his knife in a fashion intended to cause the dog the least amount of pain and place the public in the least amount of danger."

Witnesses told police investigating the incident that Bolger said he would "gut" the dog. But his lawyers wrote that they were mistaken.

"Bolger, himself a dog owner and dog lover, stated in a frustrated manner that he was going to have to 'cut' the dog when he realized he had limited options available to him," the lawyers wrote.

Had the dog managed to escape without being tested for rabies, Bolger believed the pregnant woman might need rabies shots herself, putting her baby at risk, according to the lawyers. In such circumstances, the city code authorizes a police officer to kill a dog, they wrote.

But in an interview Thursday on WBAL Radio's "C4 Show," bite victim Sandy Fleischer said Bolger's attorneys had skewed the incident. Fleischer said she was most concerned about the dog and didn't credit the police with doing the right thing.

"Don't try and make yourself a hero when you made a grave mistake," she said. "Try and say I'm sorry."

Fleischer added that she was upset her pregnancy, which was then four weeks along, had been disclosed after the incident.

Another officer, Thomas Schmidt, 53, also has been charged in the case. He is accused of holding the dog down and is scheduled to appear in court later this month.

The two officers were suspended from the Police Department after the incident.

Before his case was called Thursday, Bolger sat between his attorneys on a court bench reserved for police and lawyers. He did not speak at the hearing.

Bolger's attorneys also asked a judge to throw out the case against Bolger, arguing prosecutors had made missteps in the way they filed charges.

The judge declined to consider the motion on the spot — as is typical in a Baltimore court — but it could require further argument. Otherwise, a trial date is set for Nov. 7.

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