All Dogs (shot by the Cops) Go to Heaven (I hope) and The Crime of Stupidity.
It was a Thursday, in early March, around 9am. I was in the bedroom changing my clothes after getting home from work. While putting on my pants, I hear a sudden, clear POP-POP-POP-POP-POP, then a sixth, POP, on my otherwise quiet suburban Philly-somewhat ghetto-street. How ghetto is it? Well, on the Ghetto scale, it ranks towards the middle, somewhere around “It’s not THAT ghetto”, right between “Train Station in a rougher area” and “Hey, those kid’s are playing Lawn Darts with that pile of empty syringes in the dirt where the gas company done tore up the sidewalk and found that dead body”. Regardless, I hear the POP-POP-POP-POP-POP then POP, and like most normal white peoples, I think to myself, “Gee golly, someone must be working on their roof.” I glance out my window and see several police vehicles parked on the street, and one cop was walking towards them holding one of those long pole leashes, the type you see the agents use on the various Animal Cop shows. Well, now I just had to know what was going on (Come on Scoob!).
As I ran down my stairs towards the front door, it occurred to me that, with the Police presence outside, there is a chance that those POPs I heard could very well have been some sort of firearm discharging. Now it was imperative that I investigate, again, just as any other normal white person would have to. Gunshots on my street? I’ll not stand for that, I demand to be informed of the situation.
I opened my front door and briefly overheard a conversation between what turned out to be two police officers, with one saying he couldn’t believe the other “waited so long” because “he got pretty close to you”. The sun was bright enough that I was a little disoriented and had to focus, the first thing I noticed what that the two officers were bent over, picking something small up from the street. They were shell casings, so the sounds were indeed gunshots. It took another second or so for me to realize what was behind them, about 20 feet from my front door…A very large, very dead pit bull, lying in a pool of blood.
This would be horrifying to anyone. I consider my self an animal lover, I have a dog myself, and more than a few cats. To invoke comedian Greg Proops, I would have no problem stepping over a filthy homeless person to pet a cute kitty. So, I had a difficult time retraining my initial reaction of screaming “Ahh, what the fuck happened!!?”
Both officers spun around to face me, immediately defensive, with an older one stiffening up and yelling “Sir, just go back in your house, the situation is under control and we don’t need to hear from any locals,” which I promptly dismissed. The second officer, who appeared to have been the shooter because he still had his pistol in his hand when I first opened the door, was a younger man, and was much calmer than the other cop. “Sir, we were answering a call for a dog roaming in the area, we have specific procedures to follow to keep anyone from being hurt by a potentially dangerous animal, and this dog became aggressive and lunged at us while we were trying to subdue it. Neither of us were interested in getting bit today.”
I held my hands up in front of me spread wide in a non-aggressive “d0n’t tase me bro” gesture. “Look, I’m not going to second guess anything, it is just a pretty awful thing to walk out my front door into.”
I’m not the biggest fan of the suburban Philly police forces of the various townships and municipalities I have lived in. My limited experience with them has tended to not be pleasant on my end. Youthful run-ins for curfew violations or trumped up traffic violations notwithstanding, I’ve never been beaten or seriously railroaded, but I have felt the helpless fear of telling an officer I was innocent of a crime, when I WAS truly innocent, and had said officer refuse to believe me and detain me until a witness came forward to clear me. It’s their job, the job sucks, but I honestly didn’t believe either officer took much joy in shooting a dog, so I didn’t see any need to point fingers here. Also, there had been three recent pit bull attacks in Philly, including one the week before involving a pit bull almost tearing the arm from a 10 year old kid that was walking it. Add that to an already heightened attention being paid to local dog fighting (including reports of a mobile dog fighting practice known as “trunking“) due to Michael Vick becoming an Eagle last year, and there is already a lot of bad press surrounding pit bulls in general. I hate to say it, but those procedures he spoke of are in place for a reason, and while it isn’t the dog’s fault, they are the ones that suffer.
“Did you know whose dog it was?” I asked.
“No,” the young cop replied, “We were called for a wandering dog, that is all we know.” The older cop had gone back to looking for shell casings. I could see the dog had a large harness, it was a really big pit bull, so I have no doubt it needed it. “Any license on that collar?” I said.
Before the younger cop could reply, I hear my next door neighbor’s door open, and he came barreling out, mouth blazing at the cops, “Did y’all really have to shoot the fuckin’ dog?!!!”
A little background on my neighbor…He’s a fucking idiot. I’ll call him Harry. Harry is a black guy in his early 30’s with 5 kids and no apparent job. His…baby mama?…I don’t think they are married, so yeah…Is a nurse at a local hospital, and to the neighborhood, it would seem she is the sole support of him and the 5 children. She’s pretty nice, much more intelligent and easy to get along with than Harry. The 5 kids are hit and miss, at times polite and pleasant, other times they are little fucking hell raisers running rough shot up and down the block. I have had many conversations with Harry, and rarely are they intellectually fulfilling beyond me getting to use the phrase, “Well, whattayagonnado?” and running back in my house. He has had numerous incidents with the local cops just since we’ve lived here, with some leading to him being arrested or detained for who knows what. He’s been in and out of the house several times, sometimes locked up, sometimes just kicked out temporarily. He’s also had some psychotic episodes where he has walked out into the middle of the street screaming “Fuck all you motherfuckers on this street!! I’m a real ass nigga and I’ll fuck you all up!!!” repeatedly for a half hour before someone lures him back in the house or the cops are called. So, not stable, not too smart.
So, his aforementioned outburst at the officers didn’t sit too well with the older cop, who started yelling, “Go back in your house, we don’t need to hear your mouth right now.” Harry didn’t comply, and began arguing with the officer in earnest. I was still talking to the younger cop while this was going on, peripherally aware of Harry’s outburst and hoping he would have the smarts to shut the fuck up at least, but he kept on pressing the officer. Please note, this is all paraphrasing, mixed with some direct quotes, but I didn’t have a tape recorder at the time.
“Look, all I’m askin’ is why the fuck did y’all shoot the fuckin’ dog?”
“And I’m telling you, sir, go back into your house. The situation is under control.”
“Why I gotta go back in? I’m just askin’ why y’all shot the dog…”
“And I’m saying we don’t need your commentary, now go back inside your house.”
“I ain’t gotta go back in my house, I deserve to know what y’all is shootin’ on my block..”
“Are you hard of hearing? GO BACK INSIDE YOUR HOUSE!”
“Look, I got two kids in here, I heard gunshots, I don’t know why you’s gettin’ all mad and shit…”
“You have children inside your house?”
“Then go back in your house and be with your children.”
“Why you bein’ all mad? All I wanna know is why y’all shot the fuckin’ dog…”
And it went on like this for a good 5-6 minutes. The officer went onto Harry’s porch a few times and got in his face, Harry would be silent for a moment, then as the officer walked away, harry would launch right back into his whole “I don’t know why you gettin’ so mad a’ me…” and he would come right back and get in his face again, telling him to go back in the house.
Now, not fully supporting either party here, I can fully see why Harry would take offense to being told he can’t stand on his own porch if there is no fear of injury. I was told to go back in my house and I didn’t comply either. But I also kept my comments and questions civil. That cop told Harry at least ten times, maybe a dozen, to back off. He had every opportunity to at least shut the fuck up, and then they probably would not have bothered him beyond that. The cop was aggressive, and I didn’t appreciate his tone either, but in the basest instinct of self preservation, if a cop told me to shut the fuck up (yeah, it has happened before), I would shut the fuck up. The shit your mouth can cause you in those situations isn’t necessarily worth the story you’ll be telling your friends 18 months later, “Dude, I totally told off this cop to fuck off, but I got locked up.”
Finally, the cop told Harry one last time, if he didn’t go inside, he would be arrested. And, again, Harry didn’t comply. The younger cop I had been talking to grabbed the radio on his shoulder and reported “One of the block’s resident’s is enraged that we shot the dog…” and started to walk up onto the porch with the older cop. I tried to tell them Harry wasn’t enraged, he was just an idiot, but at that point, shit was going down and I retreated into my house. I didn’t need to be a witness for either party.
By then several other neighbors had come out to see Harry get hauled away. One woman ran into his house and grabbed the kids, afraid that the cops might call the county, and knowing that his woman could be easily reached to come for them. There were reports that they roughed Harry up a bit, banged his head against the wall, which I have no problem believing, but I am also sure he did his part by resisting more than a little.
Another gaggle of cops showed up to contain things while the first two took Harry in. They removed the dog’s body, hosed off the street, and tried to run damage control with the neighbors still milling around wanting to know what all happened. One cop held up a tranquilizer gun, saying he was en route to tranque the dog so they would not have to resort to shooting it, but he just didn’t get there in time. We didn’t find out who the dog was or who it belonged to, no one stepped forward. I spoke with Harry’s woman and found out that he was out on probation, so this arrest put him back in jail for a while. True stupidity there, start a fight with the cops when you are on probation and have priors.
The incident stayed with the neighborhood for a while, though, and about a week and a half later, another random pit bull (yeah, that stereotype is true, every dog in the ghetto is a pit bull) showed up running up and down the street. This time, it was Harry’s kids that knocked on my door and asked if I could help with the dog because they” didn’t want the cops to shoot this one.” I approached the dog and it came running right at me, and for a split second, I was worried about being attacked, but if it didn’t grab one of Harry’s kids, I figured I was safe. He did jump up on me, but luckily he was just being friendly. He also had a heavy duty harness around his neck and body, so I grabbed him and put him in my back yard. I tried walking him around the block (more like he walked me) to see if his owner was nearby, but a few well placed phone calls by my wife, first to the SPCA, and then to a local woman who called them to say that her dog had gotten loose, and he was safely back with his owner. His name was Moses. I had a twinge of regret that I wasn’t out on the street when the first dog was running around. He could have been just as friendly as Moses, or he could have torn my arm off. I still wish I had the opportunity to try.
I only really told you that last part so I didn’t end with a dead dog and an arrested neighbor. Now you can all cry an extra tear when those goddamn Sarah McLachlan “Arms of the Angels” commercials come on.