By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010
A D.C. police officer shot and killed a festival-goer's dog amid hundreds of onlookers in Adams Morgan on Sunday afternoon in an incident that was either completely justified or totally unnecessary, depending on whom you ask.
This much, witnesses say, is clear: Sometime after noon on Sunday, two dogs started snapping at each other in the middle of a crowd enjoying cheese fries and funnel cake at the annual Adams Morgan Day festival on 18th Street NW. D.C. police officers soon got involved, and at some point, one of them shot and killed the larger dog, described as either a pit bull or Shar-Pei mix.
The disagreement is in the details.
Aaron Block, 25, of Dupont Circle said he was walking his 2-year-old Shar-Pei mix, Parrot, up 18th Street when the dog suddenly turned around and bit a poodle that was passing by. He said he separated the two dogs -- cutting his hand inside Parrot's mouth in the process -- and was subduing his dog when police arrived.
That's when a D.C. police officer took over, putting his knee in the middle of Parrot's back while he pulled the dog's forelegs behind him, Block said. He said that the officer then grabbed Parrot by his neck and threw him over a banister at the Brass Knob antique store and that just as the dog righted itself, the officer pulled out his gun and fired. Parrot was "a full 12 to 15 steps away," Block said, and was "making no aggressive overtures." The dog, he noted, "doesn't handle stairs well."
"The officer drew his gun in an unnecessary act of cowboy gunslinging law enforcement and shot my dog amidst a crowd of thousands," said Block, who was fostering Parrot while he was waiting to be adopted through the Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. "The problems here are almost too numerous to count."
Block's account is supported by at least one witness, Jennifer Naideth, 29, who was in town from Los Angeles selling cosmetics at the festival. She called the shooting "so unnecessary and so violent," adding that "there was no human life in danger."
Police and others had a different perspective.
Jacob Kishter, commander of the 3rd Police District, said that once the officer pushed the dog down the stairwell, "the dog immediately turns and runs at the officer aggressively." The officer, 25-year-veteran Scott Fike, fired one shot, fatally wounding the dog, which police described as a pit bull.
"It's definitely going to be justified based on everything that we know," Kishter said, adding that police interviewed the officer, the owners of both dogs and other officers on scene.
The police account also has witness support.
Tony De Pass, 67, a former D.C. police officer who lives in Northwest, said that the dog was charging directly at him when Fike drew his gun and fired and that "if the officer hadn't shot the dog, the dog would have got one of us, either me or the officer."
"What he did, I would have done the same damn thing," De Pass said.
Block, though, said he sees the police's response as an attempt to cover up what he considers the "executing" of his pet. He said that he would walk with Parrot to and from work every day and that he was a "very people-friendly dog, with absolutely no bite history."
The incident unfolded before hundreds of revelers at the heart of the Adams Morgan celebration, disrupting an otherwise peaceful afternoon. Eric Jost, 26, of Cleveland Park said he watched a young girl with a butterfly painted on her face become "hysterical" as she "witnessed it all."
Soleiman Askarinam, the owner of Spaghetti Garden on 18th Street, said the day's revelry was suddenly punctuated with screams and angry dogs barking, then a gunshot.
"For a second," he said, "it was very scary."