Pit bull had already bitten cop; cops are injured by pit bulls 14.5 times more often now than pre-Michael Vick
LOS ANGELES, Calif.; ARLINGTON, Texas––The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on September 17, 2019 agreed to pay $3 million to the family of Armando Garcia, 17, killed by an accidental ricochet on June 22, 2017 when two sheriff’s deputies shot at a 73-pound pit bull who had already bitten a third deputy and according to the incident report was again charging them.
Cops are not statisticians, so the two deputies who fired at the pit bull could not have known that the frequency of pit bulls injuring police, nationwide, had increased from once in 183 days in 2005-2006, before the publicity surrounding the Michael Vick dogfighting case made keeping pit bulls unprecedentedly fashionable, to once in 17 days in the two years before Garcia was shot.
Cops injured by pit bulls every 12.6 days
Neither are cops clairvoyant, so the deputies could not have imagined that the frequency of pit bulls injuring police would jump to once in 12.6 days during the next two years (2017-2019), while the Garcia case was before the courts.
What Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies did know was that they had responded to a complaint about allegedly excessively loud music at 3:40 a.m. in an area of Palmdale, a Los Angeles suburb, in which deputies had reportedly already responded to similar calls about loud music and purported gang activity twice in two months.
Roberta Alcantar, mother of Garcia, claimed in her lawsuit that “when deputies arrived about 3:40 a.m. on June 22, 2017, they instructed [Garcia and friends] to turn off the music and restrain the dog in the back yard,” summarized Los Angeles Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyan.
Deputy bitten on knee
“Garcia attempted to do so, but the dog became agitated when deputies shined flashlights and cameras toward it,” Tchekmedyan wrote. “The dog then escaped from Garcia’s arms. County records say that, prior to the shooting, the dog had attacked deputies, biting one of them in the left knee. It then lunged toward another deputy and the authorities ordered the group of friends to secure the dog.”
Sergeant James Dillard arrived soon afterward.
“As Dillard was trying to send the injured deputy to the hospital,” Tchekmedyan continued, “the pit bull broke free, county records said. It ran up and attacked deputy Victor Ekanem, who pulled out his gun and fired four times. The pit bull then ran toward Dillard, who fired twice.”
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in November 2018 “concluded that the shooting of Garcia was an accident. Prosecutors said in a memo that the use of force by deputies to defend themselves against a charging 73-pound pit bull was reasonable and necessary. The report included a photo of a bite mark on a deputy’s knee,” Tchekmedyan finished.
“Skip round” hit Garcia 40 feet away
Reported ABC-7 staff reporter John Gregory soon after the shooting, Ekanem and Dillard “shot at the pit bull from a five to seven feet distance, and the dog went back to the rear of the apartment complex and into the carport area. Deputies followed the dog in an attempt to corral the animal and prevent any other attacks. When they got the carport area, deputies found the teen on the ground suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest.”
Said sheriff’s Capt. Christopher Bergner, “We believe that when the individual came out from behind the building, which was approximately 40 feet away from where the shooting occurred, he may have been struck by one of the skip rounds.”
Added Gregory, “The same deputy who was bitten was also struck by a ‘skip’ round, sheriff’s officials said. He was treated at a medical center and released.”
That made the injured deputy one of about half a dozen per year in recent years to be wounded by “friendly fire” while shooting 710 dogs since 2015, 605 of them pit bulls. The dogs shot had already injured 143 police officers and 251 civilians, along with 70 animals, 20 of them K9 officers, according to the ANIMALS 24-7 data logs.
Why was Garcia payout triple the Devitt payout?
The $3 million Los Angeles County payout for the Armando Garcia death was nearly triple the $1.1 million that the county agreed less than two weeks earlier to pay to survivors of Pamela Devitt, 63, also of Palmdale, killed by four pit bulls on May 9, 2013.
Unlike Garcia, whose loud music occasioned the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department to visit his home in the first place, and whose pit bull had bitten one sheriff’s deputy and charged two others, Devitt was merely walking for exercise in the unincorporated Littlerock district, near Palmdale, California, when fatally mauled by four pit bulls who had often run at large for as long as eight years, despite repeated complaints from neighbors about dangerous behavior.
The owner of the pit bulls who killed Devitt, Alex Donald Jackson, was in 2014 convicted of second degree murder for allowing them to run at large, and is now serving 15 years to life in state prison.
Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control was successfully sued by Devitt’s husband and two adult children for contributing to Devitt’s death by repeatedly failing to impound the pit bulls.
Pit bull advocacy more aggressive than victim advocacy
The official reasoning behind the much higher payout in the Garcia case has not been released. Factors involved may include that Garcia was killed by an act of commission by the sheriff’s deputies, while Devitt was killed by repeated acts of omission by animal control officers, none of which by themselves had immediate fatal consequences, and that Garcia was much younger than Devitt, with more of his life left to live.
But another factor may be simply that pit bull advocates have long waged a politically aggressive and media-savvy campaign against police shooting dogs, while pit bull victim advocates have only just begun to mobilize.
Homeless woman accidentally shot in Texas
Margarita “Maggie” Victoria Brooks, 30, of Arlington, Texas, on August 1, 2019 became the most recent fatality inflicted by police shooting at a charging pit bull.
“A caller reported a woman passed out in a grassy area,” reported Faith Karimi and Sheena Jones of CNN. “Arlington police officers, the fire department, and Emergency Medical Services were dispatched to the scene to conduct a welfare check, officials said.
A 25-year-old rookie police officer approached the woman down a narrow alley, with a high fence on one side and a densely wooded area on the other, calling out to her, his body camera showed.
The woman did not respond, but with the police officer still about 50 yards from her, her pit bull [misidentified by some reports as a “Lab mix”] charged the police officer, who “retreated backward from the running dog while drawing his duty firearm,” according to the official police department statement.
“The officer discharged his firearm multiple times towards the dog,” the statement continued. “After the shots were fired, the woman yelled out and it was apparent she was injured.”
Three 2019 fatalities in 15-mile radius
Brooks apparently died en route to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Brooks, the daughter of 30-year Arlington Fire Department captain Tony Brooks, was described to media by people in the neighborhood as a troubled homeless panhandler, who was often seen with her boyfriend and dogs of a variety of descriptions.
Brooks’ death came about 15 miles from where Johana Villafane, 33, of Irving, Texas, was fatally mauled at a veterinary clinic by her own two pit bulls on March 23, 2019, who were quarantined at the clinic after biting another person.
Nine days after the Brooks shooting, three pit bulls killed Nelson Cabrera, 16, also in Irving, Texas, after the homeless teen scaled a fence and jumped into the pit bull owner’s yard for unknown reasons.
The three fatalities in one year within such a small area was unusual, but not unprecedented.
Kelsey Rose Hauser
As yet, no police officers have been killed by dogs while acting in the line of duty, but two women have been shot dead by police in incidents in which dogs were also shot.
Kelsey Rose Hauser, 25, of Conifer, Colorado, was killed along with her pit bull on January 20, 2016 in El Cajon, California when police fired multiple times at a vehicle driven by multi-state burglary and drug suspect Gregory Sims, of Golden Colorado, after Sims allegedly accelerated toward a police officer at the conclusion of a high-speed chase. Sims also rammed two police cars.
Charged with causing Hauser’s death, Sims, 34, in August 2016 pleaded guilty to felony charges of voluntary manslaughter, resisting an officer by using force or violence, and evading an officer with reckless driving.
“El Cajon Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein sentenced Sims to seven years and four months in prison, the term the defendant had agreed to when he entered the guilty pleas,” reported Dana Littlefield of the San Diego Union Tribune.
Both Sims and Hauser were wanted on warrants issued in Colorado for failing to appear in court on previous charges.
Autumn Mae Steele
Autumn Mae Steele, 34, was shot accidentally on January 5, 2015 in Burlington, Iowa. Already charged with domestic abuse, Steele became engaged in a further altercation with her estranged husband.
Police officer Jesse Hill, who had just arrived at the scene, testified that he felt threatened when the family German shepherd mix charged, leaped at him, and inflicted a bite that did not penetrate his winter clothing. Trying to shoot the German shepherd mix, Hill hit Steele in her chest.
The city of Burlington paid $2 million to Steele’s survivors in June 2018.