Tuesday, November 22, 2011
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.