The Fairfax County police officer who shot a dog in the Parklawn community in the Mason District Sept. 2, 2011, has been totally exonerated, says Capt. Ed O’Carroll, commander of the investigations division at the Fairfax County Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
Many local residents expressed sympathy for Tommy Tomlo, and his dog, Crash, and said the mixed-breed pitbull had never harmed or threatened anyone, although he did run loose through the neighborhood several times.
According to O’Carroll, the officer who responded to a neighbor’s complaint about the dog was in “full compliance” with police procedures when he discharged his firearm.
“A police officer has to make a split second decision when his or her life is in danger,” O’Carroll says. In this instance, the dog was running toward the officer. He felt there was an “impending attack,” so he had to “immediately safeguard himself,” he says. That meant there wasn’t time to use nonlethal tools such as mace or a taser.
The officer who responded was a certified animal control officer who was assigned to the operations support branch, O’Carroll says. The Internal Affairs Bureau’s recommendation to exonerate the officer was affirmed by his commander and by Police Chief David Rohrer. A letter stating the outcome of the investigation was sent to the complainant.
Two other cases involving police officers shooting dogs are currently under investigation, O’Carroll says. The bureau deals with about five of these cases every year.