Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pleasantville family disputes police account of pit bull shooting

By Anjalee Khemlani, from Press of Atlantic City

Christina Salcedo said she has questions about why her father’s pit bull, which attacked a small Yorkshire terrier last week, was fatally shot by responding officers.

Jose Salcedo, 56, was issued three complaints: for letting a dog run at large, for a dog biting, and obstructing the administration of law by refusing lawful commands by two officers, according to police reports.

The police report stated the dog threatened the responding officers in the Sept. 20 incident and that police attempted to separate the dogs.

An officer “attempted to break the pit bull’s bite by placing my baton in between his jaw (and) throat area, but he wouldn’t release,” the report stated.

After more attempts, the dog was finally shot three times before it ran away to the rear deck of the house where it died, police said.

But Christina Salcedo, 29, is upset with that account of how the pit bull, Mamita, was killed.

"They didn't do anything," she said of the responding officers.

The incident began when Christina Salcedo was in the kitchen with her father, while the pit bull was outside running around the yard. Both suddenly heard "Stop! Stop!" and ran outside to find that Mamita had a grip on Pauline McKinley’s terrier just outside the fence.

Police officers arrived after being flagged down by McKinley, 80, according to the police report.

At first, Christina Salcedo said, they tried to calm McKinley, who was screaming, “He’s killing my dog!”

Salcedo said they explained that she was clearly trying to separate the dogs.

The police report said one witness said the pit bull jumped the fence and attacked McKinley’s terrier.

“The gate wasn’t locked, that dog did not jump over a fence,” McKinley said.

Christina Salcedo said officers tried to coax her away from the dog as she was on the ground trying to pull the terrier away from Mamita. She told her father in Spanish, "I don't want to let go because they will shoot her.”

The police kept yelling orders to let go, and Jose Salcedo screamed out, "Ay, no lamate!" which means don't kill her, Christina Salcedo said.

Eventually, Salcedo’s father convinced her to let go, she said.

“As soon as I let go, he shot her,” Salcedo said.

The police report stated: “The pit bull was pulled slightly away from the smaller dog for a split second and then unprovoked went after the injured small dog and the female holding the dog.”

Neighbor Reynaldo Soto heard four shots and watched the pit bull run back into the house. Moments earlier, while Salcedo was still struggling with the dog, he screamed out to the officers to use pepper spray.

McKinley said when her dog was released from Red Bank Veterinary Hospital this week, she was told he had one leg that would never function fully again.

Based on the report, the officer felt threatened by the dog, and in such situations it is standard for the officer to fire a shot, said Randall Lockwood, senior vice president of ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Project.

Typically though, using pepper spray, a baton or physically grabbing the dog to try and separate it are encouraged methods, Lockwood said in a phone interview.

The Salcedos grew up with pit bulls from when she was at least 12 years old, she said, and they have always been normal, friendly and loving dogs.

“They are not vicious. I know sometimes people train them, and those are the wrong ones,” Salcedo said.

No one knows what instigated Mamita to attack the small terrier, but McKinley said she is now afraid to walk by the area with either of her dogs.

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