Social media outrage and online calls for accountability are growing in reaction to a San Diego police officer’s decision to fatally shoot a pit bull last weekend during a predawn domestic violence call in Pacific Beach.
As of late Thursday afternoon, a Facebook page calling for “justice” for the 6-year-old dog, named Burberry, had garnered 14,796 likes. Change.org, meanwhile, had 15,506 supporters for a petition asking Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials to better train officers in dealing with dogs during interactions with the public.
The shooting occurred about 5:15 a.m. Sunday, as officers were investigating a report of a possible domestic assault in the 900 block of Garnet Avenue.
Directed by the caller to the residence where the disturbance seemed to have occurred, the patrol personnel contacted a resident, Ian Anderson, 24. While questioning him, the officers could hear Burberry growling and see him trying to move past Anderson and toward them, according to police.
“The officers made several requests for the owner to restrain the dog so they could speak with him regarding the possible domestic-violence incident,” public-affairs Lt. Scott Wahl said. “The owner made several attempts to block the dog from exiting the residence by blocking the door. Ultimately, the owner failed to restrain the dog.”
Burberry approached one of the officers, who responded by extending his hand toward him “in an attempt to calm the dog,” according to Wahl.
“The dog then directed its focus towards a second officer,” the lieutenant said. “That officer (was) clearly seen retreating in an attempt to get away from the dog. As a last resort, the officer used lethal force to protect himself from being bitten.”
The name of the patrolman who opened fire has not been released.
Anderson told reporters the brown-and-white pit bull was a gentle animal who may have been a little excited by the officers’ presence but was doing nothing to threaten them. Burberry, in fact, was a registered service dog who helped him deal with anxiety and depression, according to Anderson, who described himself as distraught over the loss of his pet.
Anderson also said the call that brought the officers to his neighborhood in the first place involved another nearby residence, not his. Wahl declined to say if that statement was true.
People leaving comments on the websites inspired by the shooting variously described themselves as sorrowful, incensed and angry, and criticized the use of force as “brutal,” “incompetent,” “trigger happy” and “cowardly.” Some opined that the officer who shot Burberry should be jailed.
The police spokesman said SDPD officials understood “the depth of emotion involved in this situation.”
“The preservation of life is our top priority, and this includes the lives of animals,” Wahl said. “As this is being investigated as an officer- involved shooting, a thorough investigation is underway to ensure proper procedures were followed. Any further comments prior to the completion of the investigation would simply be premature.”