Nebraska Man Saves Pit Bull Shot by NYPD

“I just never felt so compelled in my life… I would’ve lived my life in obscurity in Nebraska if it wasn’t for this dog.”

 

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You may remember Star, the pit bull who was tragically gunned down in 2012 by the NYPD as her homeless human lay on the sidewalk, seizing.  Amazingly, she survived, and likely because of the persistence of a very dedicated former New Yorker who was determined to keep her alive and give her a new home.  Their story is unbelievable.

On August 13th, 2012, Polish immigrant Lech Stankiewicz collapsed on an East Village sidewalk.  His dog, Star, tried to protect him, and nipped at a woman and ran towards a police officer.  She was shot in the face, causing her to lose an eye.  It was a miracle that she lived.  But what happened next is even more harrowing.

Ben Yakas of the Gothamist sat down for an interview with Cifarelli, and we are featuring it here:

 

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You started the Facebook page pretty soon after the incident came out, right? What was it about Star’s story that moved you so much?

I’m a New York guy living in Nebraska for 20 years, and I can’t stay off Gothamist. I can’t stay off the Daily News and the New York Post because I’m addicted to that stuff, what goes on in New York. And I saw the video that you guys posted, and it just floored me, man. A rush of emotions came out of me, and it was like, I can’t believe this could happen.

First of all, after living in Nebraska, I’ve gotten a little bit more sane. And I worked at the Department of Corrections for many years. I became a prison official in Nebraska, and we dealt with some of the worst convicts who made homemade knives, and we just didn’t shoot people right away. So in my mind, when I watched your video, I said to myself, number one: that officer should definitely have taken care of crowd control. And number two: I just felt as though it was an overreaction to what had happened. And I thought, ‘My god, what would have happened if they missed the dog while moving?’ I’m an expert on weapons. That was a lucky shot. That bullet could have hit Lech in the head. I was so profoundly affected by it that I started the Facebook page, but actually I wanted to help Lech.

You’re talking to a man who worked in the Department of Correction, even death row. This was the most profound thing that ever got me, because it had every situation there. It had homeless, it had somebody with a medical episode, it had the NYPD, it had a dog, it had suffering, and it had the NYPD spokesperson originally saying the dog had died. But yet, you guys updated and said the dog was clinging to life. This story to me has been the greatest thing that’s ever happened in my life, because it made me as a 47-year-old guy at the time believe in miracles. The fact alone that Star survived the shooting! I have her medical records, you should see the amount of bullet fragments she had in her head. The doctors said, “If you could read medical records, you wouldn’t believe this dog is alive.”

 

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How did you end up adopting Star?

Everybody thought the dog died initially. I called up the NYC AC&C from my office in Lincoln, NE and talked to the administrator there. I talked to her about recycling, and didn’t talk about the dog. And finally I asked her, “Hey um, what happened with that dog that was shot in the head?” She said to me, “You’re gonna have to give me an ID number.” I said, “That dog, Star.” And she starts punching into the computer and says, “Oh, the dog is at the Manhattan vet, clinging on for life.”

I called the Manhattan vet and got as much information as I could, but by that time I couldn’t get any further. I went on my LinkedIn profile. I connected with [AC&C Director] Richard Gentles, and basically told him through LinkedIn that I know the dog is alive, and that it better get good care. Shortly thereafter they hid the dog. They had The Lexus Project and Mayor’s Alliance take ownership of the dog. They were scared about paparazzi on the dog, so they stuck her in the National Greyhound Adoption Program in Pennsylvania, which is where I found the dog.

I kept calling up places saying, “Look, do you have a pit bull missing an eye?” And finally a place said yes. She had a different name then; they called her Shiloh. But it was enough for me at that point. I found out who the owner of the National Greyhound Adoption Program was, David Wolf.  I called, left a message, and David, a very nice man, called me back. I said, “David, are you known as a liar?” He said, “No, I take offense to that.” I said, “I’m gonna ask you a question: do you have Star, the New York pitbull?” He says, “I can’t confirm or deny that.” So I knew that he had her, and I said, “Look, I’m coming from Nebraska, I want to come see the dog.” He goes, “Wait a minute, I can’t let you do that! I gotta call the Mayor’s Alliance, I gotta find out if that can even happen.”

They had the dog hidden. It took me a lot of luck to find the dog, but I finally found her. But I could not tell, I had an agreement, I could not tell anybody where the dog was.  But here’s the other thing: Star was so horrifically injured that David Wolf didn’t even think she’d make it because she had a case of MRSA when she left the Manhattan vet, and he got her about three weeks after she was shot. He told me, “Charlie, it was touch and go.” And even when I visited her in December [2012], her equilibrium was off, her hearing wasn’t that good. She was just a dog that definitely had special needs.  But I stayed on the case, and finally, I convinced the authorities in April 2013:  “Let me come from Nebraska, pick up Star, and give her a forever home,” and the rest is history, she became my dog. The dog is such a nice dog.

 

 

 

 

Why do you think the city hid Star away?

I think that it was a very odd situation for them, it wasn’t really clear cut. Star didn’t bite anybody at the time. It was a situation that became a three ring circus. I think they wanted it to go away. You know, August 2012—as a former New Yorker, I watched the news—a lot of bad things happened. They shot nine innocent people in front of the Empire State Building by mistake when they were going after that guy. They also shot that homeless guy who was a little mentally deranged holding a knife in front of Times Square in front of Bubba Gump’s. And then they shoot a homeless man’s dog in the head, a homeless man that had a seizure?

I just think that they wanted this situation to go away, and it was probably the easiest thing to do—kinda let it just float out the back door. I just couldn’t let go of this situation, I just never felt so compelled in my life, this is so out of my comfort zone, man. I would’ve lived my life in obscurity in Nebraska if it wasn’t for this dog.

 

Did you ever talk to Lech?

Yes. A place called Collide in New York City helps the homeless correspond with me, and I emailed them about Lech. Lech thanked me for my helping hand, but he said it was unrealistic for him to keep the dog. He basically wanted to go back to Poland and start his life over. He just was done here.

Lech did not want any help, and Lech’s friend had reached out to me. He’s a private guy who just wanted his anonymity after this. Being filmed for 10 minutes laying on the sidewalk was not a good outcome for him. And people were very divided. He had people who were very for Lech and felt compassion, such as myself. Others felt he was an irresponsible dog owner.

 

 

 

 

Has she had any lingering trauma because of what happened?

She’s a happy dog, and that’s why I made that short video. And people always ask me, ’Is she happy?’ So I just asked her. I literally just asked her that, it was spontaneous.

But one thing: if I would lay on the floor, she thinks I’m not okay, that gets her anxiety up.

Because of what happened with Lech. Yeah. It took me a few months to realize the issue with that. I get off the couch one night watching TV. My back kinda got a little soft, and I wanted to lay on the flat floor, and I could see she was checking me out with her nose. She was fired up seeing if I was okay.

But other than that, she is unbelievable. You pet her, and the first thing she does is she rolls on her back. There’s an event that was probably a year ago, and I took her to the dog adoption days, and the volunteers started hugging her or petting her, and the next thing I know, she’s on her back and she’s getting hugs.

I’ve had some accomplishments in life, man. And it’s not about the four-car garage. It’s not about the gold watch. She’s really changed my priorities as to what’s important. And I’ll tell you something, I tell kids all the time, man: if you believe in something, don’t have an off button, and you can get it done.

 

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Follow Star on her Facebook page!

 

79 thoughts on “Nebraska Man Saves Pit Bull Shot by NYPD

  1. God bless you for giving her a home and a happy life! you are a amazing person. I wish more people had a such good heart as you,I am very touched!

  2. I wish I didn’t see that video.. I’ll probably have nightmares. Thank you for never giving up and finding Star to give her the great life she FINALLY deserves. She’s seems like a sweet girl and your very lucky to have her.

  3. She looks happy and healthy, and it has been possible because of your warm heart, your persistence, and dedication. Miracles are always possible because of people like you. Thank you so very much!!

  4. A lot of cops shoot before they think. Dog was protecting his owner. He did not have to shoot the dog. Thank you for saving him.

  5. That video was so hard to watch, even knowing that she survived & is living the good life now. The way she was whining & rolling around in the street & the cops not doing anything (or allowing anyone else to do anything) was heart-wrenching & nauseating. I’m beyond thrilled that it turned into a Happy Tail though <3

  6. i almost had a heart attack watching the original video..its disgusting how much this city has gone in the toilet.

  7. Bless you and bless the sweet brave dog, who only tried to protect her owner! Shooting the dog wasn’t necessary, but some people who call themselves cops are monsters, plain and simple!

  8. And of course nothing happened to the gun happy cop who shot him . . happy to see him flourishing in a loving environment

  9. That was a traumatic video of her getting shot protecting her owner, but thank God there was a happy ending for her!

  10. This loyal dog was just trying to protect her owner who needed help. She did not deserve to be shot in the face. I’m so pleased she has been given a second chance. God bless you Star xx

  11. The policemen that shot that dog should be dismissed from the NYPD their reputation is tarnished by their trigger happy policemen disgraceful behavior and from someone who is supposed to protect the public, that dog wasn’t going for him and at worst it could have been subdues NYPD = PIGS

  12. Mary Skerrett Koff Stavola Says Shecky Shakiris- i didnt hear about this when it happened. this man is incredible. don’t watch the video of the actual shooting. i did by accident, just watch the ones of this sweet dog.she’s great now. another happy ending.

  13. This has to be one of the best stories I will ever read on LIFE WITH DOGS!

    Only this man, with his position, knowledge of the legal system, knowledge of New York, incredible persistence and kind heart, could have made this happen. Thank you Cifarelli for giving Star the best second half of her life. I remember when I read this story when it first happened and how angry I was. This was yet another story in the news where law enforcement had overreacted, shot a dog and began the typical and expected process of defending their actions regardless of the facts. I couldn’t watch the video at the time because I was reaching a boiling point on the number of stories I have read on these incidents. I hope because of social media and instant access to millions of people, these cases will put law enforcement under the microscope forcing change in training and attitude with situations in the field involving dogs and law enforcement.

    So happy to read that Star has such an amazing advocate who never gave up and has given her the best life possible!

  14. Honestly LWD, this is one video that you need to preface that it may be disturbing to many viewers. I usually scoff at those warnings but this one where it truly is warranted.

  15. Did anyone catch the guys name who saved the dog? I’m sure it’s in the article somewhere but I couldn’t find it. I’d like to thank him via Facebook

  16. We’ll done Star your a champ Well done for taking her in and making her life so good The world needs more people like you xxxx

  17. God Bless your heart! The video of that policeman shooting Star was terrible… That was traumatizing to witness!! I’m glad ou gave her a good home!

  18. Thank god she survived that horrific onslaught brought on by the uniformed thugs . god bless her soul

  19. If I could hug this man I would probably squeeze the him too hard. I remember this like it was yesterday…..when I watched that video I almost passed out on the floor. I grabbed the my Pitty and hugged her soo hard she was gasping for air…but I almost didn’t hear her because I was crying so hard. She just allowed me to hug her until my other dog came over and jumped up in the chair with me to give her a break. Dogs know when you are upset, sick, tired or mad….that’s why the precious Star reacted that way. Mr Cifarelli, you are an amazing, wonderful resilient man and I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for not giving up on her and thanking you for seeing through all the bull that they were dishing out trying to make this heinous act disappear. I’m going to have to wait a little while to view your videos of her , I am too emotional. The best of luck to you and Star

  20. I agree with Michelle Hardee, that video upset me so much I cried! It was horrendous. And I never did see anyone help the man who had the seizure, and the cops used a catch pole on the poor dog as she was bleeding out in the street. I’m just glad she was rescued and is happy now

  21. I’m so glad that Star has such a happy ending and it breaks my heart that he was hurt. Star was doing what a loyal dog will do. The only thing was and I don’t know the specifics of the situation but I don’t think Star would let anyone near his owner. I assume animal control would have to be brought in to restrain Star. and then Lech would be able to recieve medical care. I don’t see that as feasible. I don’t like it but I don’t see that the policeman had much of a choice. Service dogs are trained to respond in emergencies such as these and not be agressive. Star had no such training and responded the only way he knew how. It’s so inspiring that you were able to provide a loving home for Star. I live in Beaumont, TX and the dog of choice here is the Pit Bull. The majority of owners are responible and loving, some have Vick(that football guy personality)now those are the ones I’d like to see strung up !

    As far as Lech being homeless makes you bad pet owner, what has that got to do with the medical emer he found himself in!

  22. Holy Moly, that video instantly brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for saving her, she was only trying to protect her owner…..most dogs would do the same….

  23. I just watched the vid of her being shot,and it breaks my heart.She was only trying to protect her human :'( I am just so HAPPY that you found her,and gave her such a wonderful life <3

  24. This is such a comforting reaction to a horrible situation. This is wonderful to see that this nice dog has found a nice place to live. Shooting is so easy, it only takes a second and a bit of adrenaline. The person from Nebraska has demonstrated kindness and perseverance. Well done a million times. May be the NY cops -and citizens- should be like in London: not bear arms …. this would make the streets a safer place. For dogs too.

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