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Police probe shooting of pit bull by officer

Published: Tue, November 22, 2011 @ 12:05 a.m.

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



City police are investigating whether a police officer is justified in the shooting of a pit-bull dog on the East Side over the weekend.

The circumstances leading up to the shooting began with a call to police about a domestic situation on Keogh Avenue in which a 35-year-old man reportedly went outside and fired a gun during an argument with his live-in girlfriend. Police ultimately used a Stinger gun to subdue the man, but could not locate the weapon he was said to have fired.

Officer Michael Anderson and his K-9 partner, Ninja, were brought in to search the area near Keogh and Mariner avenues where the shooting suspect had been hiding from police. Ninja reportedly searched the area while attached to a long tether. The area included a wooded backyard behind 26-year-old James Phillips’ home on Mariner Avenue.

Police reports say Phillips was keeping two pit-bull dogs in the backyard of the property — one inside a pen and the other attached to a leash.

City law requires that all pit bulls be confined to a pen with an enclosed top or leashed and muzzled. Owners also must carry $100,000 insurance on the animal and post signs letting others know a dog resides on the property.

According to the report filed by Anderson, the leashed pit bull was barking, lying low to the ground and lunging at police and the police dog. He reported that he heard what sounded like the dog breaking its tether, then turned to see the dog charging at him.

Anderson reported that he drew his firearm and fired one shot hitting the dog in head above the right eye.

Phillips’ account of what took place at the rear of the home is much different.

According to Phillips, he watched officers searching his yard and the adjacent property, then decided to go outside and bring his dogs inside because he saw the police dog unleashed and on the property.

“I went to bed but looked out the window one more time and saw him with his dog loose, so I decided to go out and get my dogs. I went out to get the dog and saw him shoot my dog,” said Phillips.

Phillips said his dog was leashed the entire time and was not an aggressive animal.

According to Phillips, there was no apology from police, and he was treated disrespectfully after the shooting.

“After he shot my dog, he picked him up and bragged how good of a shot he is. ... He was happy, proud,” said Phillips. “How could you just shoot my dog?”

Police Chief Rod Foley said the situation is unfortunate for the dog’s owners, and the department will investigate the shooting to determine if Anderson was justified, but the initial report, he said, shows the officer likely had cause to shoot.

“It’s never a good situation when we shoot a dog. ... People get emotional with these issues, and I understand that,” said Foley. “If the officer feels like he is facing serious physical harm, then the officer certainly has a right to use deadly force. Each case has its own merits.”

Foley said internal affairs will be interviewing witnesses and investigating the situation over the next week.


1Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

"Owners also must carry $100,000 insurance on the animal"

Was the pit bull insured ? I doubt it . . ..

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2rex(65 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

If the police dog was barking and reacting to presence of another dog it would only be right to shoot him too.

I would also like bragging rights for my shooting skills.

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3tburk1(30 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Honestly, It seems to me that perhaps this is an officer who needs retraining. If he/she was so quick to shoot that they couldn't even see if they were actually in danger (dog still leashed) then perhaps they are just simply to skittish to have a weapon.

In addition, to treat an Innocent citizen with such callousness, upon realizing he/she error'ed in shooting the dog shows this officer, at the very least, has poor communication skills.

It is no wonder some people have such a poor opinion of police officers. One bad apple sometimes makes it appear as if the whole tree is bad.

Personally, I respect our local police. Having said that, I have been fortunate enough to know enough of them to realize that the behavior of this officer is not typical. Sadly, your average citizen (urban, non-criminal) may think that the actions (specifically, his/her comments about a good aim) of this officer represent the entire department.

The officer should be reprimanded and retrained on communication and probably use of his/her weapon


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4Boston6(5 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This is ridiculous and shouldn't of happened. I feel bad for the dog and his owners. 90% of cops are on a power trip and should not be allowed to carry a weapon. In my opinion I think this is a reflection on the whole department/"family". I have met plenty of police officers that have the same behavor of this pin head.

The police academies need to be more strick on who is able to become a cop and do thorough training and education!

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5Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


"As I walk around, I watched the officer point blank shoot my dog. I asked him why you shot my dog. He said it attacked him --- on the chain," explained James Phillips.

James said a bullet hit his dog, Oscar, in the mouth. Photos show the animal lying dead on the ground, his collar on his neck and attached to a chain.

"The law goes for you, too. Like you just walked up and shoot my dog on my property, wasn't bothering a soul," said James.

Police reports show officers working a domestic dispute on Keogh Avenue around 3:00 a.m Saturday for a man who reportedly fired a weapon earlier that morning. Officers eventually arrested the suspect who, according to them, was in a backyard.

That situation didn't involve James, but he lives on neighboring Mariner Avenue and he said an officer with his K-9 companion walked through several backyards, including his.

That's when he said Oscar got shot. James said his dog was chained and not agressive.

"The mail lady walks all the way back here feeds him biscuits," said James.

James' father finds the shooting mind-boggling.

"Look, if the dog was out of his yard, chasing somebody I understand then that's justifiable," said Paxton Phillips.

But he said that wasn't the situation.

We contacted police about the dog's death, but there wasn't a report, although James says he had a quick conversation with a department official.

"How's your dog doing? He's dead -- oh, call internal affairs," said James.

James said he isn't giving up on the case.

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6Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Any dog would charge a stranger with a dog in their yard to be honest about it.

If the police and police dog were being barked at then chances are so would the neighbor the police were looking for in the woods.

If the dog was moving and not just maxed out on the chain then it would have been a pretty accurate shot.

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7USMC0331(151 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

First off you're all getting one side of the story. The dog did indeed have its chain still attached to its collar, however what you don't know is what the other end of the chain was attached to. Thats right, if you guessed nothing because the dog broke it and charged the officer and his k-9 partner.....bing bing bing you guessed right!!! The problem is the people on here want the police to always be wrong, they want to slam them. Do you think that an officer who CHOSE to be a k-9 handler (in which you obviously have to love dogs to do) would just walk up to a dog and shoot it maliciously? Come on people use the melon on your shoulders!! I personally know this officer and can tell you that he does love dogs and he would NEVER do something like that. He is a Christian man and i know what happened is weighing on his mind. What gives you the right to "try" and put yourself in the situation and then critique the officer on what he did? You don't know the "true" circumstances!!! Only what this supposed "victim" wants you to hear! You are using a one sided story to comment and judge! Who died and made you all God? Do police officers come to your work and tell you, "hey your doing that wrong, you should flip the burgers every 2 minutes". No they don't. So before you want to judge an officer on a situation that you have absolutely no clue how it transpired, just shut your mouth. You never know what kind of person you're commenting about. Police officers are people too. They are not robots they have feelings and lives. They go to church and have problems just like you. What this officer did was more than justified, you just want him to be wrong!

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8Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

USMC0331 :

"The problem is the people on here want the police to always be wrong,"

I just want them to not be penalized for their actions . The WKBN article shows what the officer will be up against in the investigation . The issue that I raise is, was the dog insured ? We already see that the dog was leashed but not muzzled . Even if the dog was chained at night when it lunged at you you couldn't be sure . Should the officer be penalized for shooting the dog ? NO !

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9USMC0331(151 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Thank you Stan. You get it, unlike most people on here.

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10Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

I didn't say the police were wrong. I was only laying out scenarios. I know quite a few Youngstown police and never had a problem with any of them. When I had a particular job in the city years ago on the east side we carried pepper spray and I had a dog break a chain from a garage and come at me at the bottom of the steps.I lit him up with spray and he followed me down the side walk for about 8 feet .I turned and stomped my foot and growled at him and off h went with his orange sprayed face. So I know how scary it can be.

I also didn't say this guy was trigger happy but there are guys who will shoot dogs chained up while passing through a yard .I know that too without going further .

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11tburk1(30 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

"Only what this supposed "victim" wants you to hear! "4

hmmm, police come on your property and shoot YOUR dog... Somehow I'm not sure where you get off calling this gentleman a "Supposed 'Victim'"....

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12USMC0331(151 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

I get off calling him a "supposed victim" because the whole story was not told. How is someone a victim when his dog broke loose and went at someone else? And YOUR dog should have had a better chain. If it were my dog i would have apologized!

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13Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

"Do police officers come to your work and tell you, "hey your doing that wrong, you should flip the burgers every 2 minutes". No they don't."

- - -You have made some assumptions too without knowing the people you are responding too.

A Biblical principal is to whom much is given much is expected.

People have the right to express their opinions even if we don't always agree with them.

The police are there to keep peace they are civil servants and the government is answerable to the people. This seems like a foreign notion these days.

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14Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Get real...You really think this Officer would just shoot a dog for no apparent reason? He's a freakin K9 Officer.
And USMC, your right, it's only ONE side of the story and he sure as he@#$ ran up to the reporters and TV station. Didn't hesitate doing that.
The Police have it tough enough without all the drama people push on them. ex: Slick Willie and his idiot scam in getting a officer fired. Never ending.

And I for one use to HATE all Cops....but when you see what they go through on a daily basis that the public has no clue on, I commend them. Would like to see the people bit@#ing about them all the time to walk in their shoes for 8 hours.

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15Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

" when you see what they go through on a daily basis that the public has no clue on, I commend them. Would like to see the people bit@#ing about them all the time to walk in their shoes for 8 hours. " - -That is very true.It is a very stressful job.

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16Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

It is also true that they are entrusted with a great responsibility . I don't think anyone would argue with them having a stressful job either at least I hope not.

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17woolyd(579 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

What dog isnt going to respond to another dog in its yard? We dont know the truth yet but from the picture I saw the dog was chained up. We also must realize the police dog would have also been in a aggravated state as it was looking for an individual and came across another dog. Lets not have this pity party that since the officer was a K9 COP he loves dogs. New Castle this summer anybody ring a bell???

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18USMC0331(151 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Like i said before yes the dog had its chain still attached to its collar but the other end was attached to nothing because the chain was broken off by the dog. And thank you Lifes2short. He did indeed run to the media with this. He also did not want to hear any explanation of what happened. Why? Cause he's a typical Youngstown resident who doesn't want to hear anything and wants to play the victim. I said "typical" not all Youngstown residents just to clarify for my nit pickers. And as far as police and the job they do.....I couldn't agree more. It's a very stressful job and an 8 hour shift might not always be terrible but in that instance when a call is taken and they have to go into a situation where there is serious danger at hand and then top it off with not knowing exactly what is going on is enough stress for months. Unfortunately this happens all too much in this city.

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19Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


"Lets not have this pity party that since the officer was a K9 COP he loves dogs."

So your saying he shot this dog just for the fun of it? Okay. Yep, another one that believes everything people say without hearing both sides. Would hate to have you on a jury.
Pity Party? It's over and done with, move on. Try being a cop.

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20dlrwrr1(5 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't agree with most of these comments. I believe that animals have rights too! Regardless to the animal's breed, he was at home on his own property, chained up with a dog house full of hay for the long winter cold. Now, because of a officer that had no business on the property decided that he would take the law into his own hands shot a dog because of his breed and not even knowing nothing else about the dog. Is this what we are to expect in Youngstown from the police? There are too many unsolved murders in Youngstown; now they are trying to take out our dogs too. Yes, there is something very strange about the gun happy police using their gun before they think of who they shoot. Be it man or dog, someone loved that animal or that human very much. Stop the shooting think before you shoot!!

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21dlrwrr1(5 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

If the officer was called to your neighborhood and shot your dog on your property then you would be mad and want to lash out on the one who did the shooting. I also see you only see things your way. Wake up and realize that if you are YooungstownBornRaised and can't see what is happening then you should get help for your blindness. You say the K9 dog is an officer too,well that dog was someones pet too before he was shot without a trial or a prayer. You are moronic and a sad excuse for not seeing things the way the rest of Youngstown sees it. Murder is Murder, think before you shoot.

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22Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


"If the officer was called to your neighborhood and shot your dog on your property then you would be mad and want to lash out on the one who did the shooting."

So your saying this Officer just went to this house and shot a dog. Get real. Do you know all of the facts to this story?? Didn't think so.

"Murder is Murder, think before you shoot."

So in a split second when someone is threatened whether it's a Officer or homeowner that is getting robbed, you think the Human mind will say, "Oh wait, let me think about this for a little". You'll be six feet under before you decide to react to a threat. Split second decisions is a matter of life and death.

"You are moronic and a sad excuse for not seeing things the way the rest of Youngstown sees it."

Now why don't you get upset at the POS 35 year old that fired a gun outside (a innocent child or person maybe getting hit), running from the Police and hiding somewhere, ALL without the Police knowing if he still had his gun. And then had to be subdued by a Stinger gun. That is who you should be upset with that started all this, not a Officer doing his job.

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23dlrwrr1(5 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Are you blind and dumb? That officer picked the dead dog up by its chain and made a comment of what a good shot he was. Now if he was doing his job on the call he was called on, the dog being in his own house, on his own property would be alive today. Yes, an officer has the right to defend himself but, he was totally out of line when he went on private property with his K9 and shot a dog on a chain regardless what the breed of the animal. Dog on a chain, shot point blank in the face over its right eye. Then he has the nerve to brag about what a good shot he is. Get a dose of reality and see that soon something is gonna happen in Youngstown, and if we all use our heads we can put the guilty behind bars instead of putting a badge on their chest.

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24USMC0331(151 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


Don't even waist your time trying to reason with dlrwrr1 the lights are on but no one is home. That has to be about the dumbest thinking i've come across in quite some time. If that person were out there they'd wet their pants and cry at the mere fact someone was posing a threat to them. They have no clue, obviously what common sense is and its because of people like this, that the country is in state that its in.

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25dlrwrr1(5 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

You are so full of your way of thinking that any one else with a new way of seeing a situation is wrong in your book. At least I have lights and I know where I live. And as far as you Youngstown born and half raised, come and live on my side of the tracks and you won't have enough water to wet your pants at all the wrong that I have lived through and still living through it. So go ahead and sit in your easy chair and bash real honest people with a honest opinion of how they see it.

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26woolyd(579 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

A moron calling someone else a moron gotta love female dogs who get on a computer and text tough. Life I will listen to both sides but so far it doesnt look good for the officer. You guys need to get off your high horse believing all officers are perfect. Oh and in New Castle negligence by the cop contributed to the dogs death and thats a FACT. As far as "try being a cop" how bout being a NYPD Homicide Detective does that count????

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27MrRight(28 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


If your insinuating that you're an NYPD detective then maybe you should worry a little less about what goes on in Youngstown and reading vindy.com and a little more about your cases in NY.

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28FormerRes(39 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

What the hell is WRONG with these people who shoot a man's dog at the drop of a hat? If you go into a person's yard unannounced, shouldn't you EXPECT to PERHAPS be confronted with a dog? Maybe the right thing to do would have been to back away and get the occupants of the home to secure their animal?

Geez, I was a paperboy as a kid. Been bit by dogs several times, once in the face. I never KILLED one for biting me, but then again that's back when men were men. Boys were obviously more manly back then too compared to an idiot substandard police officer hiding behind a gun he OBVIOUSLY shouldn't have.

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29lumper(291 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

should have shot the guy, confiscated and sold the dog. it"s a win-win.

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30slappysmith(55 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

the cop should have shot stan, dirwrr1 and mr right. it would have made everyone happy and be in the best interests of the entire community

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31slappysmith(55 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

oops i forgot usmc too another one in fantasy land where the cops are never wrong

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32slappysmith(55 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

i apologize dirwrr1 was not supposed to be on that post, it was supposed to be usmc. i apologize dirwrr1,.

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33MrRight(28 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


And how is me telling someone to worry about their job in a different state saying that the police are never wrong? If the guy wouldve followed city law in the first place like someone else pointed out, then this situation wouldve never happened.

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34woolyd(579 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

@Mr. Wright there is no insinuating pal. Oh and we officers hear about cases everywhere and are a little more privy to information than those others who blog on here. But rest assured I am always focused on my job but none the less will always look t what goes on in the valley I grew up in.

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35MrRight(28 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

For being a cop you sure are negative towards them just going by your comments

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36woolyd(579 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

MR RIGHT I live in the real world sir where we are all humans. Just because somebody is a cop, coach, babysitter, etc, etc, etc, doesnt mean they dont engage in evil and bad ways. Yes police are supposed to be held to a higher standard and they are assigned more responsibility then the average citizen but that doesnt mean they do what they are supposed to. I am not trying to be negative but many officers abuse their power and this appears to be one of those cases. The officer could have maced the dog or even tasered him but no he chose deadly force. Police dogs are fierce when they come in contact with other dogs and perps so this officer should have know this situation could be volatile.
Now MR RIGHT I dont know if you have a dog but if you do what would your dog do if it had another dog and a human come in its yard? What would your dog do if it felt threatened or if it felt you and your family was threatened? Lastly how would you fell if your dog was shot and the person(detach the fact hes an officer) was bragging about how good of a shot they were?

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37MrRight(28 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

For a detective you're not too bright. I agree that all police officers arent saints but now you're believing what the guy said?? You actually believe what the dog owner said the officer said not to mention it was in the news which is a double wammy. And Ill repeat what was said earlier. The city requires pit buls to be in a cage. The owner had two pit buls one in a cage and one not. If they both were this conversation wouldnt even be taking place.

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38MrRight(28 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

I agree FifthAve. The only people who are good shots are FBI or SWAT officers. Those regular police officers probably dont practice shooting since they have to carry a gun around at work.

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39MrRight(28 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

No I got your drift. And I too dont think that as a person who has to carry a gun around at work, especially in y-town, would ever practice to be that good.

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40woolyd(579 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

MR RIGHT I may not be too bright but neither are you. As I see you did not answer the simple questions I asked you instead went on the law of the city. Oh and its not just what the owner said, its also the officers actions, etc as to why I may believe the owner. It just seems suspicious but you continue to live in your world where you never once spent a day as an officer. Ill continue to ive in mine where I have seen every type of officer the human race has to offer.Laslty come on up to our great city and day between 9am-5pm if you are under 35 and take our entrance exam. I only say this because you have to be pretty bright to pass it and we would love to have you. We can use you in Internal Affairs.

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