This Sunday, a video was posted on Youtube showing a police officer in Hawthorne, California repeatedly shooting a dog whose owner had just been arrested… for doing absolutely nothing.
The incident happened on Sunday during a standoff between police and armed robbery suspects. Leon Rosby, the dog’s owner, is seen in a video on the sidewalk across the street from the action with his dog, a two-year-old Rottweiler named Max, on a leash.
Rosby was videotaping the scene, reportedly to make sure no one’s civil rights were violated. He clearly wasn’t the only one loitering, or videotaping, since the whole thing was caught on film by someone else, but officers take notice and start to approach him. When they start coming his way, he puts Max in the car and starts walking towards the officers who immediately handcuff him.
Max starts barking and jumps out of the car window at which point things go from bad to worse. As Max approaches Rosby and the officers, he stops barking to sniff the ground (vicious, right?) when one officer reaches out to grab his leash. Max lunges forward, but then moves back. Rosby can be seen sticking his leg out to push Max back, but the officer who again reaches for the leash then opens fire and shoots him four times – even though the first shot was enough to cause Max to try to flee.
The footage that follows shows Max stumbling around, crying and finally writhing on the sidewalk before he dies in front of a crowd of people.
Rosby describes the incident (not graphic):
Michael Gulden, Rosby’s attorney, stated that police were retaliating against him for a lawsuit that was filed against the department last spring that alleged excessive force and false imprisonment over a domestic violence call that resulted in Rosby being beaten by officers at his home and in jail. One of the officers from the alleged incident was present and recognized him as a “troublemaker,” according to the LA Times.
Hawthorne police claim that he was arrested for interfering with their operation by playing loud music and that officers acted reasonably, even though they completely failed to control the scene and ensure public safety, while instead provoking the dog and escalating the situation.
“It looks like the officer tried to reach down and grab the leash, and then the dog lunges in the direction of him and the other officers there,” Hawthorne police Lt. Scott Swain said. “And I know it’s the dog’s master, and more than likely not going to attack him, (but) we’ve got a guy handcuffed that’s kind of defenseless. We have a duty to defend him, too.”
Props to the Hawthorne police for saving a man from his own dog!
Whether Rosby is a troublemaker or was antagonizing officers at the scene is irrelevant and doesn’t justify their response.
As for the officer who shot the dog, Jeffrey Salmon, this isn’t his first time being accused of brutality. He was named in a 2009 lawsuit against the police department that resulted in a $1 million payout for “alleged deprivation of [the plaintiff's] civil rights resulting from excessive force, denial of medical treatment and malicious prosecution.”
Warning: Graphic Content
The Larger Problem
While some police officers handle encounters with dogs with common sense and compassion that should be commended, many others do not. According to the National Canine Research Council (NCRC), up to half of the intentional shootings by police involve dogs.
A report from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), part of the U.S. Department of Justice, also found that in most police departments the majority of intentional firearm discharges involve animals with the most frequent victims being dogs.
The DOJ is taking the issue seriously and released a report last year, The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters, through COPS that was completed with input from the NCRC and developed by the University of Illinois Center for Public Safety and Justice with the intent of offering resources to help law enforcement officials develop nonlethal strategies for canine encounters.
Whether the dogs are aggressive, or the problem is part of a shoot first, think later mentality, reports seem to indicate that most of these incidents could have been prevented with a better understanding of canine behavior.
According to the report, there are an estimated 78 million dogs, or one dog for every four people in the U.S., who can be encountered by officers in a number of situations from traffic stops to pursuing suspects.
In a society where killing someone’s dog can be equated by some to killing a family member or child, why is training for these situations not mandatory?
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