Lance Combs

Shelby Police Chief Lance Combs conducts a press conference on Friday at the Justice Center.

SHELBY -- The Shelby Police Department will use the destruction of a raccoon as an opportunity for the department to grow and learn, Chief Lance Combs said at a mid-day press conference Friday.

On Wednesday, a video recorded by a private citizen began floating around social media, showing a Shelby police officer driving his vehicle over an injured or potentially rabid raccoon.

"The responding officer determined the animal was sick and did not feel it was appropriate to use a firearm due to the location, instead (he) opted to run over the animal with a police vehicle," Combs said at the press conference inside the Shelby Police Department. "Our current policy does not dictate the method used to destroy an injured animal."

Combs said the Richland County Sheriff's Office has agreed to open an independent criminal investigation into the actions taken by the officer. Combs said the officer involved has been with the department for more than 10 years and remains on duty.

Separately, the Shelby Police Department will conduct a full investigation into the raccoon incident.

"The video is disturbing to watch. I could even say it shocks the conscience," Combs said of the video. "But I also know viral videos do not always show context. Having said that, I think we could do better."

Combs said he has ordered catch-pole snares, which will be carried by supervisors in the field to be used to capture potentially sick or injured animals.

"These will be used when an animal is determined to be destroyed, but is in a location not conducive to firing a weapon," Combs said. "Snare training will be conducted by the Richland County Dog Warden's Office."

The department will also work with the Ohio Division of Wildlife to train officers to better recognize behavior and diseases carried by wildlife.

"The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has reviewed the (video of the) raccoon being euthanized by officers of the Shelby Police Department and have determined no wild life laws were violated," Combs said.

"Wildlife is susceptible to a number of diseases and a situation with a raccoon in city limits in Ohio is not uncommon at all," the chief said.

Combs said he would not answer questions about the pending investigations, but did quote the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He did say police-related vehicles will not be used to destroy animals going forward.

Over the past year, the SPD has responded to eight animal bites and more than 140 animal calls for service. Combs said the majority of those calls are related to dogs. Of the 147 animal complaints, 18 have been about sick or injured raccoons. 

"Of those 147 animal complaints, we dispatched 15 animals: six deer, two cats and seven raccoons. In all of those cases, with the exception of this one, the animals were dispatched in a safe area using a duty-related firearm," Combs said.

Combs said the carcass of the raccoon was sent to the health department to be tested for rabies.

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