After a Hawthorne police officer shot and killed a dog on Sunday — a shooting caught on a YouTube video that has drawn millions of views — Hawthorne Police Chief Robert Fager confirmed that officers have been receiving threats, and he asked the public to stand down. Faber wrote:
"This Department truly feels in the loss of the Rottweiler dog 'Max' and for those impacted by such. This has led to criminal threats of harm directed not only at City employees, but also at similarly-named public citizens who just happen to live and work in our surrounding region. This is intrinsically wrong in every way and unfairly detracts from the others who have professionally communicated with us."
The three officers depicted in the video have been pulled from street duty, according to The Daily Breeze.
Fager's statement about citizens who are receiving threats may refer to reports that an art store in Glendale called Swain's is receiving threatening calls because it shares the name of Hawthorne police spokesman Lt. Scott Swain. (You can read Fager's full statement below.)
The threats stem from the shooting of a dog whose owner was arrested for allegedly interfering with officers at a crime scene.
It all started when Leon Rosby apparently pulled his car over to take video of police officers during a standoff with a suspect in a house. Police say he got too close to the officers with his leashed Rottweiler. When they came to arrest him, Rosby put the dog in the car, but it jumped out an open window. When the dog approached, an officer shot it several times.
Samantha Othieno, 16, lives across the street from where the dog died. She was outside with her mom when the shooting happened. She says seeing it left her traumatized.
"After that happened, I started screaming and my brother, from his room, he came," Othieno said. "And I screamed in his face: 'They killed the dog!' And then I ran in the bathroom and I sat there."
On Wednesday, there were still splashes of blood on the sidewalk near a small memorial for the dog. Othieno said a neighbor came and put a candle on the corner. Later, there were photos of the Rottweiler, an empty doggy bowl, and a scooby-doo stuffed animal. Every five minutes or so, cars and pedestrians stopped to take photos.
"It was on Facebook about the memorial and Instagram, social media," said Erika May Phaulas, who was pulling her dog, Ace, behind her. "So I came to check it out."
Minutes after she left, a car pulled up, and C.J. Turner climbed out with his camera phone. He said, "It's just messed up, you know?"
Turner said he knows the dog's owners and always found them friendly and the dog well-behaved.
"Hawthorne Police abuse their power, that's what they do," he said.
The Hawthorne Police Department defended the officer’s action in a lengthy statement after the shooting. It is also conducting a thorough investigation.
Statement by Chief Fager
July 3, 2013
To All the Members of our Community
A video-taped event captured this past weekend, depicting an arrest and subsequent shooting of the arrestee’s dog by a Police Officer, has drawn significant notoriety. This Department truly feels in the loss of the Rottweiler dog “Max” and for those impacted by such. We, as a Department, as animal owners ourselves, and the Officer directly involved himself, all relate and empathize in this. This connection is equally rooted in our own canine programs our Department maintains in bolstering public service and outreach. Our own diverse uses range from not only patrol and detection dogs, but one of the only Law Enforcement-hosted “Service” dogs in the country.
In turn, social media responses have not only contained writer opinion but unfortunately some have been direct threats of harm to our employees. The reality is that our current investigation, and the inherent rights afforded to respective parties, prudently govern what we can and cannot publish or expound upon. Information and evidence is continuously being garnered in order to allow us to properly determine legitimate findings and conduct appropriate actions. Unfortunately, in the midst of this social media response, fallacies are being perpetuated and outright criminal threats are being made. In the public forum of various websites, Department employees have been mis-identified as the officer who shot. This has led to criminal threats of harm directed not only at City employees, but also at similarly-named public citizens who just happen to live and work in our surrounding region. This is intrinsically wrong in every way and unfairly detracts from the others who have professionally communicated with us.
I wish to reassure all that this matter is being addressed in the most appropriate manner demanded and afforded. I ask for all to look no farther than into our own Community for the true reality of our partnerships and efforts that we apply daily in safeguarding our citizens. The Hawthorne Police Department will be accountable to its constituents and to our actions - please allow us to fulfill such. We truly sympathize with the feelings and impact suffered by all who have witnessed this incident.
CHIEF OF POLICE