Hawthorne police kill dog during arrest of owner, video of shooting goes viral
07/01/2013 05:22:45 PM PDT
07/03/2013 09:05:02 AM PDT
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A young rottweiler was shot and killed by Hawthorne police officers as they arrested his owner Sunday for obstructing justice at a crime scene. The dog was shot four times and the incident was videotaped by the man, who has a pending court case of police harassment against Hawthorne officers. Gabriel Martinez via YouTube
A Hawthorne man complained Monday that police officers needlessly killed his Rottweiler as they took him into custody for allegedly causing a disturbance at a crime scene.
The shooting, captured on cellphone video, began to go viral following its posting Sunday night on YouTube. The video shows the dog jumping through the open window of Leon Rosby's car and lunging at the officers after they handcuffed him. One male officer fired about four shots, wounding the dog and sending it squirming in the street.
"There was no way Max should have died like that," Rosby said. "Max was only protecting his master. He was trying to stop them from beating on me."
Police said the dog lunged at officers, giving them no choice but to shoot it.
"It looks like the officer tried to reach down and grab the leash, and then the dog lunges in the direction of him and the other officers there," Hawthorne police Lt. Scott Swain said. "And I know it's the dog's master, and more than likely not going to attack him, (but) we've got a guy handcuffed that's kind of defenseless. We have a duty to defend him, too."
Hawthorne resident Leon Rosby describes the moment his dog was shot numerous times by Hawthorne police. (Robert Casillas/Staff Photographer)
The shooting occurred about 7:15 p.m. Sunday at 137th Street and Jefferson Avenue about two hours after police surrounded a house where a gunman had robbed two people inside. A crowd of spectators gathered in response to the large police response, which included several police cars and the department's Bearcat armored vehicle.
As some, including resident Gabriel Martinez, aimed their cellphones at the scene to record it, Rosby drove up in his rented black Mazda. Swain said Rosby stopped in the intersection with music blaring from his windows. Officers told him to turn down the music because they were trying to hear what was happening down the street. Rosby pulled forward, parked and got out with his dog, but left the music still playing loudly.
Hawthorne resident Leon Rosby talks about his encounter with Hawthorne Police Sunday at 137th St. and Jefferson Ave. that ended with his Rottweiler Max being shot to death by officers. Rosby stands near the blood spattered sidewalk where his dog was killed. (Robert Casillas / Staff Photographer)
"It's distracting the officers," Swain said. "It's interfering with what they are able to hear. It's not just a party call. It's an armed robbery call. The officers need to hear what's going on with the people being called out of the residence. That music in his car is bleeding over and it's distracting them."
Martinez said the Usher song "Tell Me Again" was looping over and over.
Rosby, who pulled out his own cellphone to record the police activity, did not lower the volume.
"I do apologize if I didn't immediately comply. The music may have been a little loud but I was complying," Rosby said. "I said, 'Sir, I want to make sure nobody's civil rights were being violated.' "
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said the officers asked him to turn the music down, but he refused. Rosby, she said, responded, "It's my (expletive) radio!"
Rosby, 52, denied cursing, saying he was a Christian.
Once police arrested the suspected robber, officers motioned to Rosby and began walking toward him. Swain said they intended to arrest him and told him to put the dog in his car. He complied.
The video shows him putting the dog in the car, but leaving the windows open. Rosby said he walked toward officers, turned and put his hands behind his back, and waited for them to arrest him. The video shows the dog barking as officers took him into custody.
Suddenly, the 130-pound, 3-year-old dog jumped out of the car and ran at them.
"I said, 'No, Max!' " Rosby said. The dog is seen lunging at the officer, who fired several shots.
"He literally shot my puppy I had since he was 6 weeks old," Rosby said.
The dog died in the street.
"I was crying and hollering, 'My dog! My dog! Max! Max!' " he said.
Rosby spent the night in jail on suspicion of obstruction and was released at 5 a.m. Monday.
He said Monday he believed police were retaliating against him because of previous run-ins and struggles with officers. Court records show he has previous convictions for resisting, battery and driving under the influence. Rosby, who is black, said he has filed six complaints against the Hawthorne Police Department, alleging mistreatment and racial profiling.
Rosby filed a lawsuit against the city of Hawthorne and two police officers in March, contending officers broke one of his ribs when they responded to a domestic violence disturbance at his house, not far from the dog shooting scene.
"There's been a pattern of harassment against him and other African-Americans in Hawthorne," said Rosby's attorney, Michael Gulden. "Last July, the police responded to his home and beat him unnecessarily, then threw him in jail for no reason. We sued for that. We'll amend that complaint to include the dog incident."
Rosby, a husband and father, said police should have taken his handcuffs off so he could corral the dog. There also was no need to arrest him, he said.
"Why did they not just let me go when I put him in the car?" he asked.
Rosby said he and Max had spent their last moments together at the Lawndale dog park. The dog kept licking him on the back of the neck in his car as he drove.
"All he did was love me," he said.
Staff writer Sandy Mazza contributed to this article.