A DeKalb County police officer has taken an honorable step by resigning for shooting a German shepherd named Doctor. The tragic incident took place when Doctor ran around the front of his home and startled Officer David Anthony Pitts, who was responding to a false home alarm. Thankfully the dog survived, and initiatives are in place for Georgia officers to have training on how to deal with dogs.
“I’m sorry that the officer had to resign; I think that’s just all part of this tragedy, though,” said Doctor’s owner, Tim Theall.
Theall had let Doctor out of his backyard, and the dog trotted in front before he could follow it. What happened next was a shock.
“Before I turned the corner of the house, I heard two shots; I heard a cop go, ‘Holy [expletive],’” he explained.
Pitts had responded to a false home alarm, and the two surprised each other in the front yard. Two shots were fired, one of which struck Doctor in the jaw below his left ear. (Surprised or not, is that a good enough reason to draw and fire? What if a child had run from the back of the house? Would they have been shot by such an easily spooked and armed officer?)
Theall just wanted to get Doctor to an emergency vet, but following procedure, Pitts refused to let him leave because he needed to “preserve evidence” at the scene. (Isn’t the best way to “preserve” something to keep it alive?) Twice Theall was blocked with Pitts’ patrol car.
“Finally he convinced me that I would be thrown in jail if I didn’t just stay where I was,” he said.
A sergeant and other officers arrived, and after an hour, the distressed dog owner was finally allowed to take his suffering boy to the vet.
“This is the first time in my career that we’ve encountered a problem with the officer preventing an animal from getting medical treatment,” Chief Jim Conroy said.
It is unlikely that the officer had ill intentions by keeping the dog from getting treated, and probably just did not want to get in trouble for not following procedure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Doctor will recover, but medical expenses are steep. Theall’s wife set up a gofundme page to help, and their goal of $8,000 was quickly exceeded by $5,000 in just five days.
“It really does restore some faith in humanity, really; we’ve got friends out there,” Theall said.
An internal affairs investigation was launched, and though it is not complete, Pitts has handed in his resignation. Chief Conroy says he did not ask him to resign.
As a result of this unfortunate incident, Conroy said he has ordered his department to create a policy on how to handle such situations, as they currently do not have one.
“We have to look at the positives,” said Theall, who is grateful for the suggested change. “We have to look at how we can grow and learn from this thing instead of just getting angry about it.”
He plans to team up with others whose dogs have been struck down by police to push for House Bill 803, which would require Georgia officers to undergo special training on how to handle potentially aggressive pets. Senate passed the bill, but the House failed to pass it.
Conroy says that the current class of DeKalb County recruits are already receiving specialized training to help prevent future incidents.
Meanwhile, Doctor is in the process of having his jaw repaired.
An update on from the fundraiser page was posted just hours ago:
“I just got off the phone with the dentist. Doctor is going to need more x-rays when I see her on Friday or more likely, Monday. She is going to first address the extensive damage to the soft tissue. This is the consensus from her peers. The bone and metal fragments need to be removed. Then his multiple fractures of the mandible will be worked on. Doctor was shot by a 40 caliber hollow point bullet and it is a disaster in his mouth. There is a lot of special care being taken for Doctor. I wish every wrongly injured animal had the same chances at healing that he is being given, thanks to you, our friends. As hard as all this is, we rejoice in his being alive. His presence fills us with love.”