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Salisbury Officer Accused Of Mistreating K-9 In Viral Video Resigns

Salisbury Police Department
Salisbury Police Department K-9 Zuul

A Salisbury police officer who was captured on video lifting a K-9 by its leash, shoving it into the side of a patrol car, and appearing to strike it, has resigned following an outside investigation into the incident.

The investigation into officer James Hampton was conducted by the US ISS Agency. According to the Salisbury Police Department, the review found that Hampton had "acted in a manner entirely inconsistent with his K-9 training and violated police department policy."

The police department says as a result of the review, Hampton was recommended for termination. He was allowed to appear at a hearing before any disciplinary action was taken, per department policy, and submitted his immediate resignation following the hearing.

The department says he resigned before any disciplinary action had been formalized.

"The Police Department did not incentivize or otherwise request Officer Hampton's resignation, which he tendered as a matter of right," a news release said.

The resignation comes weeks after local news outlets reported on video of the incident, which was obtained by local television stations WBTV and WSOC, among others.

The video is shot in what appears to be a parking lot. It shows the K-9 named Zuul hopping out of a patrol car to follow Hampton as he walks away from the vehicle. The dog drops to the ground when Hampton turns and yells at the dog to stay.

Hampton is seen approaching the dog, leashing it, then lifting and swinging it around by the leash. A voice in the recording says, "We're good. No witnesses," as Hampton shoves the dog into the side of the patrol car.

After struggling to get the dog back into the vehicle, Hampton appears to strike it.

Other voices are heard on the recording. One says, "Is your camera on?" and another responds, "Uh, no. My power's off." Another says, "I think mine's on," followed by, "Can you go flip my cameras off? Just the front camera."

It's unclear when the video was filmed. Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes told news outlets in early March that the K-9 had been separated from Hampton, and the two were no longer working together while the police department conducted an internal review.

The incident sparked outrage among many people in the community. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) staged a protest outside the police department and delivered a letter to Stokes asserting that the officer's actions were "criminal conduct."

Following news of Hampton's resignation Wednesday, PETA released an updated statement praising Salisbury for taking "a step in the right direction," but said unanswered questions remain, including whether cruelty charges would be filed in the case, or whether the police department would implement more "modern, humane training methods so that no other K-9s suffer as Zuul did."

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Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal