OGDEN — A dog was shot and killed by an Ogden police officer early Wednesday after a man allegedly told the animal to attack the officers.
The incident began about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday when officers received a call from a California woman who was concerned about her brother. She said he had posted on Facebook three days ago that he needed help and needed to get out of Ogden and she hadn't heard from him since, according to police.
"The caller expressed concern her brother may have been the victim of gang violence," according to a statement from Ogden police.
About 1 a.m. Wednesday, two officers went to 2965 Monroe Blvd. to check on the man. As they approached the fenced front yard with a "Beware of Dog" sign hanging from the chain link fence, the officers rattled to fence to see if the animal was in the yard, said Ogden Police Lt. Tim Scott. When there was no response, the officers continued to the front door.
That's when the man whom police were checking on came into the front yard from the backyard holding a baseball bat, Scott said. The officers identified themselves and why they were there, but the man responded by swearing at the officers and threatening to sic a pit bull on them, he said.
Officers then heard the man yell "get him" and the dog "charged" at one of the officers, Scott said. The officer fired at the dog, putting the dog down.
Family members said multiple shots were fired.
The man was not the dog's owner, Scott said. Immediately following the shooting, other family members came out and angrily confronted the officers. The officers "erred on the side of caution," and backed away from the residence and left without arresting anyone, Scott said. Animal control officers responded to the scene to take possession of the dog.
Family members said Chula, an 11-year-old pit bull, belonged to their mother who lived at the house.
"I noticed my mother literally screaming that they shot her dog, they shot her dog," said the woman's daughter, Mia Mendiloa, who lives next door. "I think what the cops did was unjustifiable. They should have approached the dog differently, the home differently.
"She wasn't aggressive at all," she said of the dog.
Mendiloa said Chula didn't know any attack commands. And she doesn't believe police needed to do a welfare check at 1 a.m. She said her mother was so upset that she actually had to been taken to the hospital after the shooting as a precaution.
"Her heart is literally broken. She's not just a family pet, she's a family member," Mendiola said.
At least one eyewitness, however, who was in a nearby park at the time of the shooting, said the dog raced toward the officer when the man ordered the animal to "get them."
"I heard, 'Get him,' like 'sic 'em,'" said Sean Erickson. "The officer said, 'Get your dog or we're going to have to do something about it.'"
Erickson heard three shots. He said although he doesn't agree with the method the officer used in stopping the charging dog, police had reason to take some type of action.
Scott said officers planned to meet with the Weber County Attorney's Office to discuss potential charges of attacking a police officer.
The man whom police were looking for had already been investigated once previously for assault on a police officer, Scott said. In addition, his criminal history includes simple assault, violating a protective order and weapons offenses.
He was not arrested Wednesday. Because of that, police did not release his name.
"It's an unfortunate circumstance. The dog would be alive if it was not put on the officers by this individual. You can't blame the dog. It would have to be the handler you point your finger at," the lieutenant said.
Animal control officers had been called twice about this particular female pit bull for being aggressive, he said. The dog was also unlicensed.
An internal investigation will be conducted to determine if the shooting was justified. The officers were not placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
In the past seven years, Ogden police have been involved in 10 fatal dog shootings, Scott said. One of those incidents was a dog that died after being Tasered.
In June, a Salt Lake police officer entered a yard while looking for a missing child and fatally shot a 110-pound Weimaraner that allegedly threatened the officer. An investigation into that shooting was still pending as of Wednesday.
Contributing: Haley Smith, Sandra Yi