Monday, July 19, 2010

West Lake Tahoe residents skeptical about recent non-fatal dog shooting

By Jason Shueh, Sierra Sun

West Shore residents are voicing concerns about a deputy's motivations behind a recent non-fatal dog shooting in which law enforcement said a pack of three dogs charged the officer.

The incident took place at about 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, said El Dorado County Sheriff's Office Lt. Les Lovel, when Deputy Greg Almos was called to investigate a noise complaint and potential trespassing near Deer Avenue and Elm Street.

After Almos responded, he was then escorted to a nearby private piece of open property where the three dogs were roaming, Lovel said.

According to Almos' incident report, Lovel said the dogs charged him, and though he was able to push two away with his feet, the third dog, Frank, described as a pitbull/black lab mix, continued to attack, forcing Almos to shoot the dog in the head with his pistol.

Lovel said the dog suffered moderate injuries, as the bullet nicked the top part of his head.

“The deputy did a great job protecting himself and the neighbor reporting the incident,” Lovel said.

Lovel said the dogs had been known to be aggressive in the neighborhood.

However, Don Virgo, a neighbor in the area who heard the shot, said he disagreed with Almos' actions, saying the officer could have taken a less lethal approach.

“I didn't witness the shooting, but I heard what was going on and I believe the officer made the wrong choice,” Virgo said. “He had a lot of non-lethal weapons to use like a (Taser) or pepper spray and he should of used his pistol as the last resort.”

Virgo said it was hard for him to believe the dogs charged the officer because he said in most instances the three dogs will flee after being yelled at.

Another Tahoma resident, Hal Jewitt, submitted a statement to the Sierra Sun. While Jewitt did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment, his statement voiced displeasure toward how the incident was handled.

Lovel said the dogs were being cared for by a friend of the dogs' owner, George Edwards, a Tahoma resident, and no citations were issued, although the incident is still under investigation by El Dorado County Animal Control.

“It's the last thing a deputy wants to do is to use lethal force to put down someone's pet,” Lovel said. “The deputy did what he had to do and that was keeping himself out of harm.”

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