Witness of Hawthorne Dog Shooting Tells Story

The dog's owner may have been antagonizing police officers, witness says

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    NEWSLETTERS

    After an officer who shot a charging rottweiler became the subject of a viral video, animal lovers have been sending angry emails, tweets and phone calls to the Hawthorne Police Department. Kim Baldonado reports from Hawthorne for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. (Published Wednesday, Jul 3, 2013)

    It happened within just a few seconds: As police arrested a man on a neighborhood street, his dog jumped out of his car window and charged at the officers.

    The officer reached for the rottweiler's leash, and the animal lunged. Then, gunfire.

    Gabriel Martinez, 23, of Hawthorne captured the entire scene on his smartphone video camera: The owner crying out, bystanders screaming, the dog convulsing on the ground, bleeding. He stopped recording seconds later, put his phone in his pocket and stood there a moment, stunned, before trying to comfort his cousin.

    "It was just too much," he said. "I put my hand on my cousin's shoulder. I put my head in my elbow."

    The resulting video (WARNING: Disturbing, graphic content) has gone viral, with more than 2.1 million views on Tuesday night - just two days after it was posted. And the Hawthorne Police Department has seen a major public backlash, with angry calls, emails and tweets pouring in, along with some threats, authorities said.

    Some angry people called a Glendale shop that had nothing to do with the incident - it just shared the name of the Hawthorne Police Department's public information officer, who was not directly involved with the dog's shooting.

    Police officials said the shooting remained under investigation.

    At the time of the shooting, officers were finishing up a SWAT standoff with possible armed robbers when they allege the dog's owner, Leon Rosby, 52, walked his dog too close to the scene and obstructed officers in their duties. When officers approached, Rosby put his dog into his car, but left the windows rolled down.

    The dog first became agitated when officers handcuffed Rosby.

    The officer who shot the dog was scheduled to be off-duty on Tuesday. It was unclear when he would return to duty.

    After Martinez stopped filming, the dog eventually stopped moving, he said. Rosby was crying as officers placed him into the back seat of a patrol car.

    Soon, officers asked all of the bystanders to leave, and they put up police tape, Martinez said.

    Martinez went home and posted the video at his Facebook friends' urging. He never expected it to go viral.

    But the video doesn't tell the whole story, he said.

    Rosby seemed to be testing boundaries of Hawthorne police officers who were involved in the SWAT standoff, Martinez said.

    "It was kind of like he was seeing how far he could go and get away with it," Martinez said. "He was asking where's the black cops and the Hispanic cops? Why there's only one ethnicity there. Little things like that."

    Police said they arrested Rosby because he was coming too close to officers during the standoff and blaring music from his car.

    Martinez, a dog owner who loves rottweilers, said memory of the shooting haunts him, especially when he hears the music that was playing when the shots were fired.

    "I can't hear that Usher song again," he said. If I do, it just brings back memories right away."

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