The incident has led to a huge outpouring of concern, with many in the community expressing sympathy for dog owner Tommy Tomlo and criticizing the police for shooting and killing his dog, Crash, on his front porch, rather than trying to subdue him.
“I can’t talk about the dog incident until the investigation is completed,” Capt. Gun Lee, commander of the Mason District Police Station, told the Annandale blog Sept. 6. But he did speak about the general protocol officers are supposed to use when they receive complaints about loose dogs.
“The animal control officer would investigate the validity of the complaint,” Lee says. “If there is probable cause, the officer would identify the dog owner and issue a summons, if appropriate, or a warning.” He says animal control officers generally carry pepper spray, a baton, dog leash, and tranquilizer guns. The shooter was a police officer who was trained as an animal control officer and was serving in that capacity.
Why the officer didn’t use one of those weapons instead of shooting the dog is the big question on many people’s minds—and is likely to be a main issue in the investigation. Other issues are likely to be the fact that the event took place on the dog owner’s property and the extent to which the dog endangered the life of the officer.
Lucy Caldwell, a spokesperson for the police department, says the dog charged and “was acting agressively toward the officer.”
According to Lee, police officers must follow strict rules on the use of firearms against assailants. The Fairfax County Police Department’s “general order” on the use of deadly force states: “In any situation where an officer is otherwise acting lawfully, the use of deadly force is justified in the defense of the officer’s life or other person’s life. Also, the use of deadly force is justified in protecting the officer or public from serious injury.”
Tomlo acknowledges that the mixed-breed dog, often perceived as a pit bull, frequently escaped from his yard and ran loose through the neighborhood. But Tomlo says Crash never bit or attacked anyone and was well-liked by several of his neighbors. He is planning a civil lawsuit against the officer who shot his dog.