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Body camera footage shows Hillsdale County deputy fatally shoot man and his dog

WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing logo WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing 6/19/2021 Michael Krafcik | News Channel 3
Body camera footage shows Hillsdale County deputy fatally shoot man and his dog
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READING TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Newly obtained body camera footage captured a Hillsdale County deputy shooting a man who became upset after the deputy shot and killed his dog after it attacked him in April.

Oscar Herrera, 32, was shot and killed by a Hillsdale County deputy outside his Reading Township home April 28, 2021, after Michigan State Police said he pulled a knife on the deputy who shot and killed his dog. Police said Herrera's full-grown pit bull attacked and injured the deputy.

"The officer transformed a controlled and contained a situation and manufactured this needless death," Ian Fallon, Herrera's family attorney, wrote in an emailed statement.

News Channel 3 obtained the body camera footage through a Freedom of Information Act request made to Michigan State Police.

"I think it was handled professionally," said Hillsdale County Sheriff Scott Hodshire. "Nobody wants to take a human life. Unfortunately when the life of my deputy is threatened, he has to do what he has to do to go home to his family at night."

WARNING: This video could be disturbing to some viewers

Caption: News Channel 3 obtained the body camera footage through a Freedom of Information Act request made to Michigan State Police. (WWMT/Courtesy Michigan State Police)

The Hillsdale County deputy responded to a complaint about a dog running around the neighborhood on the 6500 block of South Edon Road in Reading Township. When the deputy knocked on the door, a pit bull charged at the deputy, who attempted to use a chemical spray, before shooting and killing the dog, according to Hodshire. 

Michigan State Police said it's still investigating the shooting and is waiting on autopsy results before sending the case to the Hillsdale County Prosecutor's Office for review. 

The body camera video showed the dog leap at the deputy who fired at least four shots. The dog ran to another part of the yard where it died. 

"You killed my dog, bro," Herrera yelled to the deputy during the encounter. 

For nearly five minutes, the body camera video showed the deputy talking to Herrera. For most of the encounter, he had a stun gun pointed at him.

The deputy apologized about what happened to the dog. 

Herrera stood near his deceased dog while the deputy told him to remain on the ground.  Herrera is heard slurring his words. 

"You killed my best friend," Herrera told the deputy, as Herrera stood near the dog's body. 

At various points, Herrera started to charge at the deputy before he was warned to stop or he would be shot with his taser.

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"Several times he tried to deescalate the situation, unfortunately it did not happen," Hodshire said.

About five minutes after the initial encounter, Herrera charged at the deputy while reaching for a knife in his pocket, state police said. The deputy yelled "don't do that" before shooting Herrera multiple times.  Police said Herrera died in his yard. 

The body camera video showed the deputy waiting for medics for nearly three minutes after shooting Herrera.  

The deputy was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and was treated for minor injuries. 

"He wanted to make sure there was nothing else in the house that was a threat to him," Hodshire said.

Fallon, representing the Herrera family,  said the family is committed to justice for Oscar and to accountability for the deputy involved. 

"There was no dog loose. The dog and its owner were safely in the house. This situation deserved a ticket at best and now a citizen is dead. What happened is wrong and something we have seen over and over again across the country," Fallon said. 

Court records showed Herrera was charged with a felony weapons charge following a June 2018 incident where a trooper shot and killed one of Herrera's other dogs after it bit the trooper in the hand, Hodshire said. 

"The state police already shot my other dog," Herrera said to the deputy in the video before he was fatally shot. 

Hillsdale County court records showed Herrera was charged with possessing a weapon while under the influence in May 2018. 

He was charged in March 2021 with recklessly discharging a firearm and being under the influence, according to court records.  

Hodshire said the deputy, with seven years of law enforcement experience is back on patrol. Hodshire said he remained on paid administrative leave for about four weeks following the incident, which is standard procedure following a shooting involving law enforcement.

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