The Hillsdale City Police Department is receiving threats from the public after a video went viral that depicts officers in an encounter with a dog at large on March 21.
Police officers Todd Holtz and Dustin Simms encountered the dog when responding to a “disturbing the peace” complaint about Andy Dewaine Bailey, Hillsdale City Police Chief Scott Hephner said. After resolving the conflict with Bailey, a loose pitbull started aggressively moving toward the officers while they walked away, Hephner said.
“They were trying to figure out who the owner of the dog was and at one point in time one officer deployed one shot of pepper spray into the air near the dog and the dog backed up,” Hephner said.
A female bystander called the dog’s owner to inform her that her dog was on the loose, Hephner said. The bystander was helpful until the owner returned from downtown, then both of the women and Bailey started yelling at the officers.
“They were trying to get her identification so that he could issue the citation, and he was verbally creating an interference and obstructing that investigation which he interjected himself into and had no business doing that,” Hephner said.
The officers wore body cameras that captured the encounter with the dog. The City of Hillsdale released those videos to the public on Facebook on March 28.
“We have body camera footage from both officers which we have published which clearly shows the officer never went after the dog, touched the dog, or beat the dog, so that never happened,” Hephner said.
The bystander recorded what happened when the officers were trying to get the identification of the dog owner, Hephner said. When officers arrested Bailey, the bystander posted the video to Facebook. Afterward, another individual, who calls himself James Freeman, reposted the video to his YouTube channel, claiming an officer had beaten the dog with a baseball bat.
Hephner said this viral video, which racked up more than 100,000 views, presents a false narrative and caused backlash against the department.
“This untruth initiated a nationwide campaign, if you will, of people contacting the police department and the city, making threats, including death threats,” Hephner said.
The bodycam footage does not appear to show either officer at the scene beating the dog.
The prosecutor’s office charged Bailey with disturbing the peace and resisting and obstructing an officer, according to police records. In 2020, police arrested Bailey for possession of methamphetamine.
Mayor Adam Stockford released a statement March 26 saying that he found many of the hysterical phone calls he received to be hypocritical.
“Transparency is important to us and that is exactly why we have our officers wear body cams, for their safety and the public’s safety,” Stockford said. “I can tell you personally, some of the things being said regarding the video are untrue.”
Stockford said the city released the entirety of the body camera footage so the public can see the true narrative.
Although Hephner said it is unfortunate that the narrative has escalated, no one was injured in the incident, which he said is one of his biggest priorities.