By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
Just before midnight Friday on Wick Avenue, a Hermitage patrolman shot and killed a dog named Jezebel that was running loose in the neighborhood.
Police and a neighbor who witnessed the shooting say it was justified by the two-year-old boxer’s threatening behavior but the dog’s owner says Jezebel was just “playful.”
Through tears on Saturday afternoon, Barry Laskowitz shook his head and said, “Why’d they have to kill her? They shot her. I can’t believe they shot her, it doesn’t make any sense.”
“The dog is a nuisance,” neighbor Connie Gilliam said. She said she was “right in the middle of everything” and “the officer did what he had to do – he had no choice.”
Hermitage police issued a four-page police report on the incident Saturday that laid out the events that led up to the dog’s shooting and noted that this was the seventh time they had to respond to a call about Jezebel.
The report detailed the previous instances when the dog ran loose and chased people, bit someone, or acted in an aggressive manner.
The last call to police on Friday was of the dog running loose around the neighborhood. The patrolman who responded was identified by Laskowitz and Gilliam as Derek Songer.
Police said they tried unsuccessfully to contact the Shenango Valley Animal Shelter and called Laskowitz, who told them he was at work and couldn’t come and get the dog. Three children at Laskowitz home at 111 Wick Ave. told police that Jezebel had been running loose for about two hours.
The patrolman and neighbors tried to corral the dog for 30-40 minutes, using treats to lure her inside, police said.
“He was more than patient,” Gilliam said.
The dog circled around behind Songer and nipped him in the ankles, Gilliam said. Police said he jumped back and drew his gun.
The dog started “growling aggressively,” police said. Gilliam said she could not tell if the dog was being playful or threatening.
She said Songer backed up with his flashlight and gun pointed at the dog. “The officer was certain/feared of an impending attack,” police said.
Jezebel charged Songer and he shot the dog, police said.
“Why couldn’t they use pepper spray or a tranquilizer gun,” Laskowitz said. “Why’d they have to kill her?”
Laskowitz said Jezebel was nice and playful and never attacked anyone. He admitted the police had cited him on two previous occasions over the dog. In their report Hermitage police say that Jezebel bit a pedestrian on Nov. 22 and tried to bite a mailman on May 1.
Crystal Tuttle, Jezebel’s other owner, called police on Oct. 8 because the dog kept getting out and running loose, police said. She wanted police to use a Taser on the dog to make it listen, police said.
They told her that they could only use “tools” if it was a threat to police or others.
Police said they have written statements from neighbors that the dog “kept trying to come at them” on Friday.
“If they would’ve controlled the dog, this wouldn’t have happened,” Gilliam said.
After the shooting, police said Tuttle arrived and told her three children to go look at the dead dog.
Gilliam said she told the girls to go back inside and police said the two women argued and had to be separated.
“I didn’t want those kids to see that.” Gilliam said, “I’m glad my son slept through the whole thing, it’s just sad.”