Sunday, May 30, 2010

Officers kill two pit bulls after boy attacked in Elgin

Elgin police officers shot and killed two loose pit bull dogs Friday afternoon after one reportedly bit a child and both threatened the responding officers themselves.
The incident occurred at 4:23 p.m. Friday at Festival Park, 132 S. Grove Ave. in Elgin.
Officers had already been tracking reports of two stray dogs on the near east side of the city when the dogs were spotted approaching the park, Elgin police Sgt. Dennis Hood said.
According to the report, a 9-year-old boy was bitten by one of the dogs. When one of the responding officers moved forward to interrupt the attack, the dog then turned from the boy and lunged toward the officer, who shot it.
The second dog then began circling the officers and lunged toward the second officer, who then shot it.
The boy was treated for minor injuries at the hospital and released, Hood said.
The owner of the two dogs was later identified but was nowhere near the dogs throughout the incident, Hood added.
The police report did not describe how many other people were in the park at the time.
The dogs' owner has been cooperating with police's ongoing investigation into whether any ordinances were violated, Hood said. No charges had been filed as of Sunday.

Daily Herald 

Update May 31, 2010 11:46pm - The Courier-News reports that the owner of the dogs, Sonia Torres, was cited for dog at large and dog with no tag ordinance violations, according to police.
Torres had left her house to pick up her kids and upon her return found the gates to the dog's cages open and a hole in her fence, police reports said.
The dogs were named Kobe and Gracie.
The following is a related article by Katie Anderson of The Courier-News:

Elgin police forced to shoot two pit bulls
Elgin's hotly debated new animal control ordinance goes into effect today. It follows on the heels of a Memorial Day weekend pit bull incident that is likely to open debate again on breed-specific bans in the city.
Two pit bulls were reported wandering about 4 p.m. Friday in downtown Elgin. According to police, the animals made their way to the water and playground equipment at Festival Park on the city's South Grove Avenue riverfront. There one of the dogs bit a 9-year-old boy and both dogs reportedly charged at Elgin police, prompting the officers to shoot both dogs, according to police reports.
The dogs' owner, Sonia Torres, of 154 S. Porter St. in Elgin, was cited for dog at large and dog with no tag ordinance violations, police said.
Torres, a mother of four, said she understands the citations but believes police used excessive force in subduing her family's pets, Gracie and Kobe. Torres had left her house to pick up her kids and upon her return found the gates to the dog's cages open and a hole in her fence, police reports said.
Torres was out searching for her dogs in the area around her home during the time when the dogs were shot.
Police received a report of two pit bulls loose in the area of Gifford Place and Villa Street just before 4 p.m. Friday, a police report said. Another call to police reported the dogs, a tan and white pit bull and a chocolate brindle pit bull, moving toward the riverfront a short time later.
"The dogs ended up down near Festival Park and there were probably about 150 people down there," said Elgin police officer John Demmin.
"We had two seasoned officers down there, one was a K-9 officer. They found the dogs were laying there panting pretty hard," Demmin said.
Officer Marshall Kite retrieved a bottle of water, a leash and a bowl from his vehicle and tried to give the dogs water while officer Todd Pavoris tried to approach the dogs, a police report said.
As the officers worked, two small children exited the water park area of Festival Park near where the dogs were lying, police said. The officers told the children to leave the area but as the kids moved away one of the pit bulls reportedly bit one of the children on his left forearm and wrapped its claws around the child's back, a police report said.
"Officer Pavoris sees this and charges at the pit bull," Demmin said.
The pit bull that was biting the child reportedly then turned and charged at Pavoris. Pavoris shot the dog twice in the side, according to police reports. "At that time," Demmin said, "the chocolate brindle charged at officer Kite."
Kite fired one shot into the dog's head, Demmin said.
The 9-year-old suffered a minor bite wound and scratches to his back, was treated at a local hospital and released later that day, police reports said.
The dogs were taken to Dundee Animal Shelter and police began to search for their owner, Demmin said.
Torres was located and identified her dogs at the animal hospital. The chocolate brindle had died on the way to the veterinarian and other was euthanized, a police report said.
Kobe and Gracie
The pit bulls killed Friday were not a problem in their Channing Street neighborhood, according to statements taken by police from Torres' neighbors.The Torres family kept 1-year-old Gracie and 1 1/2-year-old Kobe in separate cages inside of a fenced-in yard, according to Torres, and confirmed by police reports.
Torres said they were always friendly and loving toward children.
"They too had personality and were just like we have heard plenty of people say, like family members," she said.
Torres and her children were still dealing with the loss of their family pets over the weekend and questioned over and over again how Gracie and Kobe could have gotten loose and wandered a mile from home.
"I'm just not sure how they'd get from here to there," Torres said. "I think someone took them, tried to steal them, and then couldn't handle them and let them go. They wouldn't ever go by the water. They are afraid of water," Torres said.
At the time of the incident, Torres had left her house, and when she returned the gates to the dogs' cages were open and there was a hole in her fence, police reports said.
Torres was out searching for her dogs at the time they were shot.
Torres said she is sorry for the little boy who was injured by one of her animals but believes the officers who shot the dogs went overboard.
"I think it was animal cruelty," Torres said. "Gracie was so small you could have just sat on her."
Torres said Friday's incident is an example of the way people across the city stereotype pit bulls. She is afraid the incident will further what she calls "a bad rap" for the breed.
'Looking for the public's input'
Elgin City Councilman John Prigge was previously in favor of breed-specific regulations that would clamp down on pit bull owners in the city. In light of the dog bite and subsequent shooting, Prigge said Monday that he would look to Elgin residents for guidance on his next move."This is going to be a case where the public's input is going to determine where we're going to go," he said. "It sickens me, it just sickens me, that this attack happened in downtown at one of our best attractions in Festival Park."
Prigge said he had been contacted by three Elgin residents over the weekend encouraging him to "do something," about the pit bulls in Elgin. He indicated Monday that he would urge fellow councilmen to take a proactive stance on the issue.
"If we value downtown and our parks and if we value safety in downtown then this is something we're going to have to come at head on," Prigge said.
"I'm so happy that we're not dealing with a dismemberment or a death or anything else close to being that serious, but this should be taken as us dodging a very local bullet -- that's exactly what this is," he said.
Council member Dave Kaptain said Monday he hoped his fellow councilmen resist a knee-jerk reaction to the incident and give the city's brand-new animal ordinance a chance to work. Kaptain was a strong opponent to breed-specific bans last March.
"The ordinance takes effect tomorrow," Kaptain said Monday. "I don't like the idea of amending what we haven't tried yet."
Kaptain believes the new ordinance would have helped alleviate some of the circumstances that led up the Friday's incident and he cautions that it could take time for the ordinance's full effect to be felt across the city.
"If this had been a Rottweiler would I feel the same absolutely," Kaptain said. "We need to make owners be more responsible for their animals."

Update June 15, 2010 2:47pm - The following article is by Harry Hitzeman, Daily Herald:

Elgin pit bull owner fined $3,000 after skipping court

A 31-year-old Elgin woman whose two pit bulls escaped from her yard last month and bit a boy at Festival Park before being shot by police failed to appear in court today to face charges she unlawfully let her dogs run loose.
As a result, Sonia Torres was fined the maximum amount $750 for each of four citations issued after the incident, for a total of $3,000. She could have been fined as little as $50 for each ticket had she appeared in court.
Under state law, Torres, of the 100 block of South Porter Street, now has 30 days to ask the judge to wipe out the fine and schedule a makeup court date.
"As of Tuesday, she has convictions entered against her, four of those for $750 (each)," Elgin City Prosecutor Stephen Tousey said.
Torres could not immediately be reached for comment.
Police shot her pit bulls about 4:45 p.m. May 28, in front of more than 100 people near a fountain on the north end of Festival Park, 132 S. Grove Ave., after one of them bit a 9-year-old boy's hand.
The dogs later were euthanized and Torres was issued tickets on each animal for dog at large and failure to get rabies inoculations. She has not been charged criminally.
Elgin Deputy Police Chief Cecil Smith said last week the department conducted an internal investigation and concluded the shootings were justified.
Smith said two officers, one of them a canine officer, initially tried provide the dogs with water to distract them and worked to secure nooses around their necks. The dogs grew aggressive, leading the officers to open fire, Smith said.

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