Friday, July 15, 2011

Police shooting of dog creates outrage in Midlothian

By Casey Toner, Southtown Star

A note from police saying they had left a “large dog” in his back yard awaited Michael Ryan when he returned to his Midlothian home one day last week from a trip to the grocery store.
Shortly thereafter, police came back to his house, claimed the dog was a vicious pit bull, shot it three times, watched it push its way under a fence and then searched for it up and down the block, trying in vain to catch it, according to witnesses and the police report.
The incident July 10 outraged Ryan and his neighbors in the 14500 block of Kolmar Avenue, who said the shooting wasn’t justified.
“We think this is completely wrong,” said Sarah Bielicki, one of Ryan’s neighbors. “They could have saved its life. Instead, they shot it on the spot.”
The officer who shot the dog wrote in his police report that he did so because it ran to attack him. The dog was behind the Ryans’ garage at the time.
“We heard ‘boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,’ ” Ryan said. “I saw the poor dog try to scratch at the front gate to get out, and it ran to the other end of the fence, and the next thing I saw it was running down the street. That was the last I’ve seen of the dog.”
Police said they initially were called to the scene about 2:55 p.m. because a brown pit bull was running around the area. Police said officer Joseph Croak chased the dog to the yard and was waiting for the homeowners to return and a public works employee to arrive when he was called to a crime in progress.
Ryan and his wife Nancy came home to find the note Croak had left.
“There was a note on the gate that said, ‘There is a very large dog in your yard,’ ” Ryan said. “I thought it was a joke or something.”
Because of a shift change, it was Midlothian officer William Miller who went into the yard with Midlothian public works employee Joe Powers, who tried to use a noose to catch the stray dog.
Public works employees are assigned to handle stray animals because the village has no animal control unit, Midlothian Police Chief David Burke said. Captured dogs are taken to the Animal Welfare League at 10305 Southwest Highway, Chicago Ridge.
This one wasn’t captured, however. When Powers tried to noose the dog, its “hair went up” and it began growling at the two men, police said.
Miller followed it behind the Ryans’ garage, where the dog started barking at the police officer and ran up to attack him, police said. Miller pulled out his gun and shot the dog once in the head and twice in the ribs, police said.
The wounded dog then sprinted past Miller and pushed its way under the fence before disappearing, police said. Police searched the neighborhood to no avail.
“A vicious dog in that condition could have gone after an officer or anyone,” Burke said, adding that Miller is the handler of the department’s police dog.
Ryan’s son, Michael Ryan Jr., said the wounded dog bled in the back yard and on the fence. He said shooting the dog was unnecessary.
“I just thought it was crazy,” he said. “I don’t know why you would shoot a dog.”
“It was horrifying,” said Heather Denoyer, another neighbor. “We all have dogs and we were all horrified.”
The elder Ryan, who has a black Labrador named Eve, disputed the police’s claim that the dog was a pit bull. He said he once owned a pit bull and said based on the dog’s size, it likely was a bull mastiff.
Ryan said he had fed the trapped dog and gave it water. He said it never growled or bared its teeth at him.
“He didn’t look aggressive to me,” Ryan said. “He was worn out by the police chasing him all day.”

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