By jeanne starmack
The city’s police chief is looking into how his department’s police dog got loose and took down an 8-year-old boy playing in his grandmother’s yard.
Police Chief Gus Sarigianopoulos said this week he was on vacation when the accident happened at 1:20 p.m. Friday.
The boy, who is from Boardman, and several other children were playing hide-and-seek, said Detective Sgt. John Rusnak, who responded after the dog, Storm, broke loose from his handler and chased the running boy.
The boy was not hurt. His clothing was torn and he had a red mark on his arm, but no puncture wounds, Rusnak said.
Officer John Gulu, Storm’s handler, told Sarigianopoulos he believes the dog was being playful.
Storm lives with Gulu, and Gulu said he knows the dog well enough to distinguish when he’s being aggressive.
Gulu and Storm were not on duty at the time.
Gulu had been walking Storm on his street and had let him loose in a fenced area that surrounds a drainage pond, Sarigianopoulos said.
Because Gulu is a police officer, The Vindicator is not naming the neighborhood where he lives.
“He was holding onto the dog to re-leash him,” Rusnak said. “The dog broke his grip.”
Gulu was bringing Storm up over the fence to put him on his leash, and the dog must have seen the running boy at just that moment, Sarigianopoulos said.
Gulu ran after Storm and shouted a command, but was unable to stop the dog before he got to the boy.
Sarigianopoulos said the department will take steps to prevent such an episode from happening again.
“Whatever mistake we made, we have to correct it,” he said.
He said Gulu will not let Storm loose inside the fence at the end his street anymore. He said the dog can exercise in the brownfields near the police department’s shooting range.
“There’s never anybody there,” he said.
He and Rusnak characterized Gulu as a responsible officer who is a state-certified canine handler.
“This was a one-in-a-million, unfortunate accident,” Rusnak said.
Storm is off-duty during a 10-day quarantine required by the Mahoning County Health Department.
“We know the dog does not have rabies,” Sarigianopoulos said. Storm will be evaluated by a veterinarian before he can return to duty, he said.