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After officers shot and killed one dog and wounded another Sunday on the city’s south side, neighbors in the area say the dogs were not aggressive and police had no reason to open fire.
Officers were called around 10:30 a.m. Sunday to the 1700 block of Connelly for a report of two loose pit bulls who were aggressive and chasing children. Police say the dogs charged them when they exited their squad cars and while they waited for the tranquilizer gun to arrive from the Safety Building, they saw the dogs attack a cat.
RPD Chief Art Howell said his officers were forced to open fire on the animals, killing one and injuring the other.
“Officers continued to witness aggressive behavior from the two dogs, at which time, due to the aggressive nature of the dogs, lethal force was used in the interest of public safety,” he said in an email to Racine County Eye.
Residents who live in the neighborhood say the dogs were roaming around, but they weren’t exhibiting any aggressive behavior.
“My husband encountered these dogs on the 1500 block of West Blvd and said that he had just been attacked (with hugs and kisses) by two of the friendliest pit bulls he has ever met in his life. I would like to see some video evidence of this ‘aggression’ because I am not buying it,” Paula posted on the Racine County Eye website.
Lindsay, a reader who messaged Racine County Eye on Facebook and asked that we not use her last name, said she lives across the street from where the shooting took place, and she said the dogs never attacked a cat.
“I saw the two pit bulls headed northbound on Deane, tongues out, not aggressive looking. (There weren’t any) kids outside at that time on Deane,” she said. “Then (the dogs) walked into the bushes of the house across the street. That is when the cop car pulled up and (an officer) jumped out. After he fired the shots, the cat took off southbound down the block. The cat is known around here and hasn’t been seen yet, but (there was) no blood where he took off from.”
Matthew LeVan also encountered the dogs.
“These two dogs walked within 10 feet of me in my back yard. They showed no aggressive behavior,” he said in a comment on the RCE website.
Howell said the initial call indicated that someone in the area felt at risk, and the lack of contact with an owner was also worrisome.
“As evidenced by the fact that we received this call-for-service, it is clear that some residents in the area felt threatened. The attack on at least one other animal, and the absence of an owner to manage or otherwise control the dogs placed others in danger,” he said via email.
Whenever an officer fires their service weapon, there is a comprehensive review of the situation, Howell confirmed, and this situation will get that same level of attention.
“Whenever any of our officers discharge their weapons, there is a great deal of follow-up that occurs. We will interview everyone who has information to offer on this matter. It is not uncommon for witnesses to have different perspectives, as not all witnesses will have viewed the event in question in its entirety,” he continued.
John Chromcik was working on the roof of a house at the northwest corner of Wright and Deane when the shooting took place. He said he was waiting for measurements from his partner when he heard someone yell, “Hey!”
“I turned around and saw an officer draw his gun and fire at a tan and white dog trotting toward the officer, but it didn’t look aggressive. It was wagging its tail and had that ‘happy trot,'” he said. “I didn’t hear any barking but I was too far away to hear if the dog was snarling or growling.”
Howell said there was also some concern about a nearby church service ending and the dogs charging congregants as they exited the service. Still, he stressed that every detail available would be explored to find out exactly what happened.
“As would be the case with any use of force review, we will interview all witnesses, interview the officers involved, interview neighbors, and review all available squad car video, after which, we will be able to ascertain exactly what transpired,” he stated.