Stories about gun-crazy police who shoot dogs without good reason never cease to appall me, but they do start to feel repetitive sometimes. In a way, that’s what’s most draining about them, and the similar reports about excessive force against human beings: It’s the same story over and over again, with a few different details, and no one cares enough to change the script. However, this week, one incident in Riverside, California, did stand out from the rest of the pack: When a sheriff’s deputy tried to kill a dog, he instead put a bullet through his own leg, sending himself on a ride to the hospital.
The story as related by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is that the deputy went into an enclosed yard to serve some court papers. Spokesman Armando Munoz told the Press-Enterprise that “A dog came at the deputy in an aggressive manner. The deputy, (attempting to defend himself) pulled his service weapon, shot one round, and injured himself in the leg.”
When you read that, of course, the first question that comes to mind is, what does “came … in an aggressive manner” mean, and why did it require lethal force? “An aggressive manner” could legitimately describe a low growl that means, “This is my house; behave yourself,” or it could mean charging with teeth bared, fully intending to rip your throat out and use it as a chew toy. The latter is a legitimate excuse for pulling a gun.
According to the dog’s owner, Jorge Rodriguez, it was more the former. He told an NBC news team that his dog, Precious, didn’t attack, but only barked at the deputy and walked toward him.
“The officer got scared and unfortunately pulled his gun — he shot himself,” Rodriguez said.
A department spokesman also described Precious as a “large Pit Bull breed dog [who] attacked the deputy.” Looking at the footage, Precious could hardly be described as “large,” which tends to elicit visions of Marmaduke or Cujo. It’s more likely that the spokesman wanted people to think of the second, but NBC’s footage of Precious, which shows her playing happily with neighborhood children, makes it pretty clear that she’s a medium-size dog. If Precious is the department’s idea of a “large” dog, then it is unmistakably clear that their officers haven’t been adequately trained about the realities of handling dogs. Or, apparently, guns.
Because Precious wasn’t wandering around free when the incident happened, no further action is planned against her or her owner. The officer’s injuries were non-lethal, and he will no doubt be serving papers again soon.
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