Saturday, December 31, 2011
Missouri Cop Murders Restained Dog Because He Was "Afraid"
LaGrange, MO — A LaGrange man who drew national attention after video showing police killing one of his dogs surfaced on the Internet vowed Thursday to seek changes in the law.
Judge Fred Westhoff fined Marcus Mays $50 for failure to register a dog with the city and $100 for failure to have a leash or muzzle on a vicious animal. Mays also must pay court costs of $29.
“We can’t have dogs taking after young children or even adults,” Westhoff said. “It’s just not safe.”
Mays requested the bench trial and represented himself. Afterward, he said he will ask the city to revise its animal ordinances.
“I think if I get enough people together and raise a big enough complaint, maybe they’ll change it,” Mays said.
City Attorney Jeff Curl said he had hoped for a stiffer fine because it would have “sent a message” to dog owners to “follow the ordinance.”
Mays described the animal as an American bulldog, but authorities termed it a pit bull.
The dog, named Cammie, was shot to death on March 31 by Officer Doug Howell.
Video from part of the incident later was posted on YouTube, but it shows fewer than 10 minutes of the 68 minutes that Howell and Officer Jason Powell were on the scene.
The video which was not shown at Thursday’s hearing, was from a police car camera. Mays said a friend of his put it on the Internet.
The officers were responding to a call from LaGrange resident Mary Coleman that the dog had acted threateningly toward her and her daughter as they walked to a school bus stop.
“It was growling at my six-year-old,” Coleman testified. “I wanted my kid to be safe and myself to be safe.”
Mays pointed out that the dog could not have been too angry because Coleman chained it at her home while Howell and Powell went to get special equipment used in handling animals.
The video shows that at one point, the dog laid down on the street and remained motionless for a time.
Howell testified that the dog growled as he tried to load it into a truck, that it later broke free from a chain tied to the vehicle and eventually charged as he tried to capture it with a six-foot catchpole.
Powell described the dog as “aggressive” and “vicious.” Both officers had electroshock weapons, but did not use them because they said the effectiveness would have lasted only five second.
Howell said that he felt the only option to protect the safety of neighbors was to shoot the dog.
Howell fired one shot to the chest, which felled the animal. On the video, the dog can then be seen wagging its tail. Howell said he fired a shot to the head “because I didn’t want the dog to suffer.”
“I didn’t feel it was right how they handled that,” Mays said.
A neighbor of Mays, Frances Hamilton, testified that the animal had previously chased her husband.
Curl pointed out that Mays had pleaded guilty to animal abuse in 2007 and had been ordered not to own pets for two years. Mays argued that the circumstances did not warrant the punishment and that he had pleaded guilty only to avoid a court fight.
Cammie was just a pup when Mays got the female 18 months ago. He said the dog had never been aggressive.
Mays said he has four other dogs – three pit bulls and a mastiff. He said he did not register Cammie because doing so “slipped my mind.” The other four are registered, he said.
Howell and Powell have not been disciplined. Police Chief Dale McNelly said his department is working with the Humane Society of Missouri on additional training in dealing with unruly dogs. The city already has budgeted money for a new animal shelter.
City code defines vicious canines as “any dog(s) that has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly aggressive” and any “dog(s) not in law enforcement service that has bitten a human being previously or attached another human being previously, whether such occurred within or without” the LaGrange city limits.
Even if his campaign to change the law in unsuccessful, Mays said the fight will be worth it.
“I don’t feel (Cammie) was vicious,” he said. “I feel I stood up for her.”