Two years ago, someone handed Steven Coffman, who was and is still homeless, a 7-week-old puppy. He loved the dog so much that he says she set him straight and kept him out of dealing drugs and committing other crimes. He called her Knucklehead, and says she never outgrew her friendly puppy personality, her jolly temperament.
“That dog was keeping me out of prison. She kept me out of trouble. I didn’t want to end up back in jail or prison where I couldn’t take care of my dog,” says Coffman, who lives in San Francisco, currently under a freeway offramp.
He says a doctor had given him a note that the Boxer mix could accompany him as a service dog because she helped him so much with his depression and anxiety. One day last week he couldn’t find her service-dog vest with the note when he went to take her on public transportation last week, so he had to return her to the encampment and leave her with a friend for a couple of hours.
He would never see her again.
Mark Devlin, who also lives under the freeway, told the SF Weekly that “without any kind of warning, there were shots. I was shocked and yelled ‘No, no, no!'” As Knucklehead and two other dogs ran back toward him, he could see that “Sugar and Knucklehead were kind of tangled up and tumbling. I thought they were both shot. Charlie ran past them. Sugar and Knucklehead both fell, but Sugar got up. Knucklehead laid down and died.”
California Highway Patrol spokesman Officer Tony Tam says Knucklehead was among three dogs who approached “in an aggressive manner” a group of government employees doing a survey there. CHP was accompanying the workers. He says the officer who shot at the dogs “tried to get them away, but they wouldn’t obey his commands. He felt they threatened his safety as well as that of the civilians.”
Coffman wept profusely while talking with SF Weekly about Knucklehead’s death. “There wasn’t a mean bone in that dog’s body,” he told a reporter whenever he could stop weeping. “Now, for the life of me, I don’t know what I’m going to do. … Even though my life was in the shitter, I still had her,” he says. “She was my reason, man.”
Dogsters, this is just too sad. Were the dogs really appearing to come at the cops aggressively? If an officer really felt people were in danger, was a gun absolutely necessary?
Yes, Coffman hasn’t been an exemplary citizen, but the dog was all he had. She was everything. And now she’s gone. He feels it in the depths of his soul. He doesn’t even have a home to return to and a bed to curl up in. He has the freeway as his roof, and a deep emptiness he’s not sure he can escape. My heart breaks for him. I wish there was something someone could do to ease his loss …
Update 12-15-2011: The SF Weekly has posted a new story with updated information from the POV of a government worker who says the dogs appeared very aggressive and she was convinced she was going to die. ‘”Easily I feel [the dogs] would have killed me,” she told the reporter. “It was a defensive fire.” To read more, click here.
Source: SF Weekly