SALISBURY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- No charges will be filed against the Salisbury police officer who was caught on camera mishandling a K-9 unit, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
On Wednesday, the Rowan County District Attorney’s Office announced that former Officer James Hampton would not face any criminal charges after video surfaced showing him abusing a K-9 officer, Zuul, back in September of 2020.
FOX 46 obtained the video on March 2. In it, Hampton appeared to hold the K-9 over his shoulder by its leash and later hit the dog.
The DA’s Office says because they were not provided with a criminal investigation to review, as the City of Salisbury deemed the issue a ‘personnel matter’, they requested that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations intiate a criminal investigation. NC SBI declined, saying there was no reason to believe the evicence supported a felony offense.
Subsequently, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office intiated the criminal investigation.
Throughout the course of the investigation, several co-workers stated that they had never seen Hampton have issues with his previous K-9 partner or Zuul. A Lieutenant who reviewed the incident said he did not feel Hampton had exhibited any bad intent or malice, but did believe Zuul had been disciplined incorrectly.
The K-9 officer who recored the incident told investigators that Zuul had gotten out of the car when he wasn’t supposed to and that he was “not the most disciplined dog, which can be frustrating in training.” However, he said that in his opinion, Hampton’s handling of the dog was “excessive and not necessary.”
A second officer who was present during the incident said he didn’t thin Hampton intended to hurt Zuul, but agreed that the discipline went too far.
Investigators say they also spoke with the presidents of two K-9 training facilities, who said they did not find Hampton’s actions appropriate. One of them referred to as an “overcorrection,” after Zuul did not follow commands.
The City of Salisbury said in an earlier statement that “the canine was not harmed…and suffered no effects from this incident.” Investigators also spoke with a veterinarian at Concord Parkway Animal Hospital, who noted that Zuul was doing well and had no signs of lasting damage or discomfort following the incident.
The DA’s Office adds that Hampton, who was frustrated after Zuul did not follow instructions, did not use inappropriate or foul language toward the K-9 “to support an intent to harm him.”
Following the full investigation, the DA says that while former Officer Hampton disciplined Officer Zuul in a way that doesn’t adhere to “current industry training standards,” his conduct did not meet criminal standards.
The DA’s Office says they do not condone the training and discipline techniques Hampton used. However, they say that while his actions were “disturbing” the office agrees with the investigators who advised that criminal charges were not warranted in this case.
The Salibury Police Department says they are continuing the process of reviewing and changing their K-9 training operations, policies and procedures in line with industry best practices.