A man who witnessed the police shooting of a dog in the East Village yesterday says that the pit bull mix named Star first snapped at a woman before turning on police. "[The police] were telling people standing around to get back, but a lady was standing behind the passed out-guy got a little too close, so the dog nips at her." Here's video of the whole disturbing incident. [Warning: the graphic video below does show the dog getting shot.]:
Johnny Rodriguez, who was visiting the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary nearby, said he and three other people alerted nearby police officers that the owner of the dog was in danger of being hit by traffic. "He was having a seizure, I saw him lying down on the ground and his head was twitching and shaking." The two officers who responded called for backup ("I guess they didn't have the training or something") and the dog began growling as officers approached the man.
"I told one of the cops, 'Hey, that dog is growling, be careful,' because they were getting pretty close," Rodriguez says. "I used to have a pit bull and that's just how they are, they protect their owners." Rodriguez thought that one woman had placed herself too closely behind the man as she was observing what was happening. "It grabbed her pants, but it didn't bite her, then the dog starts running at the cop."
Contrary to previous reports, Rodriguez, who lives in Bay Ridge, says that police used mace only after the dog was shot. "If they used it, I didn't see it, I was there the whole time though." You can see the officer on the right discharge his mace shortly after the dog is shot. Rodriguez says officers took him to the 9th Precinct where they uploaded his video "for evidence." Rodriguez adds that he did not witness police kick the man or use physical force to attempt to rouse him.
"It's a tragedy, but I may have done the same thing that the cop did. If you got a pit bull coming at you, I don't know if you stand there and get bit or use your gun," Rodriguez says. "The dog was protecting the owner, that's what it does."
Star is still alive and remains in the care of the Animal Care & Control facility on East 110th Street. Attempts to locate Star's owner have been unsuccessful so far. The Local East Village spoke to friends of the dog's owner, who police identify as Lech Stankiewicz, and they said that Star has a history of being overprotective of Stankiewicz.
“Most of us figured out that when he’s passed out, whether he’s overdosing or not, leave him alone,” the friend, Brandon Verna, said. “If he’s going to die, call an ambulance and have them deal with it because no one wants to get bitten.”
[UPDATE] A spokesman for Animal Care & Control notes that Lucky is "showing signs of slight improvement." You can read more here.
[UPDATE, August 25]: Star is recovering—see photos—and will be put up for adoption!