HAMMOND | A series of misunderstandings by well-meaning neighbors and police led to an officer shooting a dog belonging to an uninsured family who lost its home in a fire last month.
The dog was not instantly killed in the shooting but later died at a veterinarian's office, said Louis McCullough, one of the property owners.
According to police, officers were called at 8:58 a.m. to the 900 block of Spruce Street for a report of a blue Ford Taurus in the alley and two prowlers inside a fire-damaged home.
Police Chief Brian Miller said an officer arrived and found the door to the garage open. The officer shined his flashlight into the garage and saw two people inside.
Miller said the officer ordered the two people to put their hands in the air and heard a dog in the corner growl. The officer backed out of the garage and the dog lunged at him, Miller said.
The officer put his knee up to push the dog away and when the dog lunged at him again, Miller said, the officer fired one shot, striking the animal between the shoulder blades.
The two people in the garage were Louis and Chanel McCullough, the owners of the property. The McCulloughs lost their home to fire April 15, leaving the couple and their four children ranging in age from 3 to 17 homeless.
Louis McCullough has been unemployed since fall 2011. The family did not have insurance on its home.
A sobbing Louis McCullough said Wednesday morning he had been going to the detached garage on the family's property to feed their dogs two or three times a day. The 3-year-old dog, Angel, gave birth to puppies two days ago and may have been trying to protect them when the officer entered the garage.
"I don't know how I'm going to tell the kids," he said Wednesday afternoon. "I had her since she was a puppy."
Louis McCullough said the officer was "screaming and cursing at the top of his lungs."
"I told him I was the homeowner and was attempting to give him my ID when he shot my dog," he said. "She didn't try to bite him. She started to bark and ran at him."
Miller said he is reviewing the case but based on his initial investigation, it appears the officer acted within departmental guidelines in the situation.
"It's not the goal of any officer to shoot a dog or a person," Miller said. "No one feels good about it. ...This is a very regrettable thing."
Miller said McCullough was cited by the city recently for keeping dogs without the required vaccines and breeding them without a license.
He has a court date scheduled for May 16.
Louis McCullough said he tried to take the dog for her vaccines, but the vet told him she couldn't be vaccinated because she was pregnant. As for the charges of breeding without a license, he said the dog was poisoned and became ill several years ago, and he did not believe she could become pregnant.
"We do have another dog and this was an accidental pregnancy," Louis McCullough said. "It wasn't planned. We weren't breeding her."