Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pennsylvania: After their Pit Bull was shot after trying to attack officer, family says it's unfair they were charged

PENNSYLVANIA -- Everyone agrees that a police officer and a dog were shot March 10 in Hazelwood.

But the circumstances that led to the shootings on Tipton Street are in dispute.

Bret Grote, the attorney for three members of the family that owns the dog, said Wednesday that they were wrongly charged after a Pittsburgh police officer aiming at their dog accidentally shot his own partner. He argued that the case should be withdrawn.


A preliminary hearing scheduled for Marlon Jackson, his mother, Saundra Cole McKamey, and his cousin, Devin Paige, was postponed Wednesday afternoon when the officer, Scott Brown, who was injured in the incident, did not appear for court.

“He has not been cleared to come back to work,” said Officer Robert Berberich. “You’re not allowed to go to court if you’re not cleared.”

Magisterial District Judge James Hanley granted a postponement until Aug. 10.

The police allege that the dog, a pit bull terrier named King, appeared to be aggressive, and they feared it was attacking Officer Brown.

The family members insist that the Pit Bull is "harmless", that the officers acted inappropriately and then filed criminal charges against them to cover up their own misconduct.

Ms. McKamey is charged with hindering apprehension, and Mr. Paige is charged with tampering with evidence and possession of marijuana. Mr. Jackson faces the most serious charges, including aggravated assault for allegedly siccing the dog on the officer, as well as recklessly endangering another person, obstruction and cruelty to animals.

“The only danger created in this situation was when Officer [Christopher] Goetz fired his gun,” said Mr. Grote, who represents the family.

According to the criminal complaint, Officers Berberich, Brown and Goetz were on patrol in Hazelwood that day, when Officer Goetz saw Mr. Paige counting money and then throw a baggie of marijuana. He ordered Mr. Paige to stop, and Officer Berberich found the marijuana, while Officer Goetz recovered $100 in cash and two cellphones.

At the same time, the complaint said, Officer Berberich noticed Mr. Jackson on the front porch of the house at 216 Tipton standing with both hands in his pockets. Officer Berberich asked Mr. Jackson to show him his hands, the complaint said, and he refused.

Officer Berberich wrote that Mr. Jackson then started backing up to his front door and that he could hear a dog inside “aggressively barking.”

The officers alleged that Mr. Jackson ignored their commands to stay outside and not let the dog out, and Officer Brown went onto the porch to stop him.

The complaint alleges that it was then that Mr. Jackson opened the door and intentionally released the dog.

“Officers gave Jackson orders to take control of his dog, which he also refused. The dog then lunged at Officer Brown’s neck and face, possibly in an attempt to bite him while cornering him in the area near the doorway,” the complaint continues.

“In fear for Officer Brown’s safety, Goetz fired two rounds from his duty pistol at the dog.”

One shot struck Officer Brown, who was treated and released from the hospital that afternoon, in the foot. The other struck King in the buttocks.

The family disagrees with much of the criminal complaint.

They said that after the first shot was fired, King ran away, and that Officer Goetz shot him when the dog was already across the street.

OK, why did you open the door and release him if you weren't intentionally trying to get it to attack the officers?

King had to have surgery to remove the bullet, and the family paid about $2,500 in medical bills, Ms. McKamey said.

Mr. Grote questioned the officers’ actions in the case — including shooting one of their own — in pursuit of summary marijuana charges. He noted, too, that an internal investigation was conducted by Pittsburgh police in which Mr. Jackson was interviewed, as well as the veterinarian who treated King, to see if the dog was dangerous.

So what? That's standard procedure by the police. If they hadn't done it, you'd be bawling and complaining about why they hadn't.

Mr. Grote said that his clients were prepared for their preliminary hearing on Wednesday, and that it should not have been postponed.

“We hope they use the time before the next hearing and come to their senses and drop these charges,” Mr. Grote said.


(Post Gazette - June 8, 2017)

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