Hammond police say officer justified in shooting dog

2014-06-10T20:51:00Z 2014-06-11T14:14:04Z Hammond police say officer justified in shooting dogSarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Police said Tuesday they determined an officer was justified in shooting a dog that lunged at him while he was responding to a call for a loose pit bull.

The shooting Monday by a Hammond officer set off a controversy on social media, eventually drawing a response on Facebook from Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. The mayor's post mirrored a statement police issued Tuesday.

Police said an officer went to the 6500 block of Jackson Avenue about 3:15 p.m. after a caller reported a pit bull was let out of a yard without a fence. The caller said the dog, whose breed remained unclear Tuesday, appeared to be wearing a shock collar, police said.

The front yard of the home was not fenced, but there was a sign that said "invisible fence," police said. The front door to the home was open and music was coming from the backyard, police said.

The officer approached the backyard and motioned for residents he saw there to come to the front yard, police said.

The dog came running from the back of the home toward the officer, police said.

"The officer turned to run hoping that the invisible fence would somehow stop the dog from charging," the police statement said. "The officer reported that he retreated a total of 15 to 20 feet but that the dog did not stop."

The dog lunged at the officer, who fired one shot that struck the dog in the muzzle area, police said.

When asked why the officer turned to run instead of retreating backward, Hammond police Lt. Richard Hoyda said the officer was trying to avoid the situation.

When asked if there were any people nearby when the dog was shot, Hoyda said police had determined the shooting was justified.

"That officer was put in a situation where he was defending himself, and he discharged his weapon in the safest manner possible given the circumstances," he said.

McDermott's post said the officer acted appropriately when he shot at the attacking animal.

McDermott also referred to the the dog an American bulldog. Hoyda said that breed was mentioned in a police report but he didn't know the dog's exact breed.

Police said Dario Lemus identified himself as the owner of the dog Monday and said he would take it to a veterinarian for treatment, Hoyda said.

Hoyda said he had to assume the dog survived the shooting because of Lemus' statement, but Hoyda had no further information about the condition of the dog Tuesday.

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