People across the country are upset with a police officer from Hawthorne, Calif., after a video of him shooting a Rottweiler went viral.
Very upset, in fact.
So much so, that 113,000 have signed a petition calling for his resignation.
The response to the Hawthorne case, in which police shot an innocent bystander’s Rottweiler as officers arrested the man for recording another arrest, appears to take concern over police actions to a new level.
Police were arresting the man “taking video” of an arrest that he witnessed as he was walking his dog. Another bystander got the arrest and the dog shooting on camera and uploaded it to YouTube and set off a firestorm.
The video has been viewed over 5 million times and has prompted angry citizens to gather signatures that were delivered to Hawthorne Police in conjunction with a rally July 27.
Rally organizer Kari Guerrero told WND that she delivered just under 113,000 signatures of upset people from the U.S. and around the world to the department that day.
But the Hawthorne shooting is not an isolated incident.
In Leander, Texas, a family dog was shot when police raided the wrong home in search of a man with an expired vehicle registration.
A 6-year-old witnessed the incident, prompting questions about both policy and practice for officers shooting dogs.
Retraining is one response by police departments, including in the Denver area after officers shot families’ pets.
Few would argue that police officers have every right to fire on a vicious dog if their life is threatened. But many of the cases appear to be “shoot first, ask questions later.”
In Houston, Texas, alone, at least 228 dogs have been shot by police and deputies since 2010. Putting that number beside Houston’s murder rate of 200 per year makes it even more startling.
There are now hundreds of social media sites dedicated to decreasing these deaths across the country.
Family pets including German shepherds, golden retrievers, Australian shepherds, pit bulls, chihuahuas, and others have been shot – in many cases in front of children. A news According to a Memphis news report, a Labrador retriever was shot by a police officer while the owner and child were playing with it outside.
“The police officer, he just came up and started shooting at my dog,” the upset 9-year-old child told reporters.
The Denver area, too, has seen several instances of officers shooting family pets.
In an interview with WND, Sgt. Robert Sanchez, an officer in San Diego, told his story of shooting a dog. He said he shot the dog because it was attacking a little girl and there was no other way to subdue the animal. He said there have been less than a dozen shootings by police this year in San Diego, but he couldn’t speak for the rest of the state.
Official stats show that San Diego County reported fewer than 10 dogs shot by officers each of the past three years.
When asked why police don’t carry equipment to deal with dogs such as a baton, mace or tranquilizer gun, Sanchez stressed that carrying extra equipment to deal with dogs would take the focus off of dealing with criminals and put it on animals, which is not the job of a police officer.
He explained that it is already a big burden for officers to load their vehicles with all the equipment they might need in the line of duty. To load another gun or mace would burden the officers, he said.
Another consideration is the potential of a lawsuit against an officer if he misses his target.
“What would happen if I accidentally shot a person with a tranquilizer dart?” he asked.
In states such as California, police are subject to greater scrutiny in the courts, and the fear of injuring a person and being sued is greater.
Sanchez said he tries to call animal control because it is better trained to deal with dogs. But he acknowledged the problem of dogs getting caught in the crossfire and the pressure from the public to find a way to deal with it.
The San Diego City Police Department’s policy is to contact animal control for assistance when there is advance notice of a potentially dangerous dog. Some officers, like K-9 and narcotics units, carry catch poles. But the equipment is cumbersome for the few officers who carry it, and usually the only equipment the officer has at his fingertips to deal with the animal is his sidearm.
A Harris County, Texas, police spokesman told WND that animal control is only called in cases of a dog bite, and officers do not carry specific equipment to handle dogs. Residents of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, put in 4,100 dangerous animal calls to the sheriff’s department in the past two years. In 58 cases, officers shot and killed dogs.
In an interview with Houston’s KHOU-TV, Sgt. Joseph Guerra said that training is the answer.
“A lot of times, officers are not sent to training to get that type of certification to feel comfortable enough to deal with these animals,” said Guerra.
The Houston Humane Society employs Guerra and other law enforcement officers as full-time investigators. Guerra investigates animal cruelty and neglect, and teaches police how to safely interact with potentially dangerous animals.
“It’s enough for you to back up slowly and exit the gate and make that phone call to the owner and have them put that dog up,” explained Guerra.
Guerra is pushing for mandatory training for officers. KHOU reports that Houston Police do not require such lessons, and a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office told WND that it offers training but does not require it.
Video of the Hawthorne case is below, but viewers are advised it is graphic: