Thursday, February 23, 2017

Indiana: Pet owner, Gary police in dispute after dog fatally shot

INDIANA -- Nearly two weeks after a Gary police officer fatally shot a pet dog during a domestic disturbance call, the dog owner is calling for the officer’s resignation and the release of her husband from custody after he allegedly threatened to shoot law enforcement.

“I want his badge removed,” Faith Diggs, 19, of Gary, said as she stood outside the Gary Police Department on Wednesday with the support of the Black Lives Matter’s Northwest Indiana chapter.

An outraged Diggs said she largely disputes law enforcement’s account of what happened Feb. 9.

In a statement, Gary police said they received a call for service at about 4:49 a.m. to the 200 block of Central Drive after a woman called 911 to report her boyfriend had battered her. Officers approaching the home encountered a large dog, which aggressively charged at them, officials said.

The officers backed away and yelled at the dog, but it continued to charge at them. At that point, one of the officers shot the dog, officials said.

“Believing the danger too immediate and imminent, one officer discharged his weapon, shooting the animal to avoid injury or serious harm to himself or other officers,” the police statement said.

Diggs said Wednesday her dog — Simba, a 6-year-old English Mastiff — is not aggressive and was on a leash outside when officers arrived.

Police also noted how shortly after the dog was shot, a man allegedly threatened to retaliate by shooting the officers. The man continued to threaten officers and went to the extent of calling into 911 dispatch to state his intention of shooting officers, police said.

Gary police Lt. Dawn Westerfield said Maurice Diggs, 21, of Gary, faces two counts of felony intimidation in regards to the matter and actions thereafter. Court records show Diggs has been charged with intimidation/threaten with intent to engage in conduct the other person’s will and intimidation/a threat to commit a forcible felony.

Faith Diggs said Wednesday her husband was only arrested after arriving at the police station hours after the incident to speak with police. She denied Diggs threatened to hurt anyone.

According to a Gary police statement, there is evidence that the dog was not restrained by any means when the incident occurred. The dog “had a history of aggressive behavior in the past when police arrived,” police said.

Video posted by the family on social media captures events immediately after the shooting, and shows a lifeless Simba laying in Diggs’ snow-covered yard.

Police advised in the statement that “the narratives and opinion circulating (in the video) are largely speculation and conjecture, if not, purposefully false.”

Rory Turner, Faith Diggs’ sister, who was present at the time of the incident, said she and others present inside the house at the time were not aware of officers’ arrival because squad car lights and sirens were not activated.

“We didn’t even know they were outside and then we hear ‘Pow, pow, pow, pow,’” Turner said.

Gary police said they have received a rash of threats since the incident — all of which “have been recorded and have the possibility to be subject to prosecution.”

Kim McGee, with the local Black Lives Matter chapter, said Wednesday the arrest of Maurice Diggs is a way to "deflect attention" from the department’s wrongdoing in shooting the family's dog.

“Why was the dog shot (multiple times)? There are a lot of questions," McGee. “Police power is an amazing thing. They get to push their narrative.”

McGee is among those in talks with the Gary city administration about the creation of a civilian review board to serve as an independent watchdog to evaluate the actions of police in the city. Discussions are ongoing, she said.

"This is another reason why (Gary) needs a police civilian review board,” McGee said.

Gary police in a statement said "unrestrained dogs, even if not known to be aggressive, may pose a danger to the community as well as public safety officials."

"Even restrained dogs may pose a threat if not adequately restrained. As such, please always keep your pets adequately restrained on leashes, in crates or within fences while outside," police said in the release.

(NWI Times - Feb 22, 2017)