AURORA, Colo. -- The owner of a dog that was shot in the face by Aurora Police, after it apparently attacked a woman walking her dog and then threatened police, said officers should have used less-lethal force.
Valeria Rodriguez said her two dogs, Angelo and Luna, got loose Saturday night and ran to a nearby apartment complex at 11th Avenue and Sable.
“The (gate) was pushed open,” she said. “We’re not sure if (the dogs) opened it or if someone else did.”
A tenant at the apartment complex told Denver7 that one of the dogs ran through the hallway of his building.
Another tenant, who was out walking her dog, said the loose dogs ran toward her, so she grabbed Sassy, her little dachshund, got down on the ground and crouched over her for protection.
“I (saw) something flurry coming toward me on my right side,” she said. “I’m thinking this is a human. It slammed into me really hard.”
It was apparently one of the loose dogs.
The victim said she wasn't bitten, but she was bruised by the impact.
Several people witnessed the attack and called 911.
“We’ve got two Pit Bulls on the lawn. One of them attacked somebody,” one caller said. “Please hurry, hurry, hurry.”
When asked what would have happened had she not crouched over her dog, the tenant said, “I don’t think she would be alive.”
Rodriguez disputes that.
“They’re not vicious dogs,” she said. “I think people automatically think they’re vicious because of how they look.”
While the 911 calls referenced Pit Bulls, Rodriguez said Angelo was an American Boxer and his mom, Luna, is a Staffordshire Terrier.
She said some kids who live in the apartment complex told her they had been petting the dogs.
But a witness who lives in the complex told Denver7 that he watched the dogs dart toward the first officer as he pulled up in a squad car.
“The dogs were getting rowdy,” Corey Theriot said. “They went running up to his car and jumped on his car. Both dogs were growling and barking.”
Another witness told Denver7 by phone that she didn’t notice any aggressiveness by the dog.
“I yelled at the cops to leave him alone because he was really scared,” she said. “He didn’t know what to do. The dog was really scared.”
The first officer wrote in his report that he noticed a young woman walking nearby and feared for her safety and the safety of the other officers.
He said he exited his car and was met by the larger of the two dogs.
“It was barking and growling at me,” he wrote. “It appeared strong and well muscled.”
The officer wrote that the dog’s "head was down and its ears were pinned."
“It was less than 10 feet away from me,” he stated. “Based on police in-service training that I’ve attended in the last 5 years, I recognized this behavior as a dog that was about to attack me.”
The officer said he fired at the dog and that the dog ran away yelping.
Rodriguez said that when she learned Angelo had been shot, she started crying.
"It's ridiculous," she said. "For them to use a shotgun when there's a crowd of people around is just not right."
The owner said the officer wasn't upfront with her about what happened.
“Police told me they shot her in the leg,” she said, “but when I got to the (veterinary) emergency room, they told me he was shot in the face.”
“I had to put him down,” she added.
Rodriguez said Angelo was part of her family.
“I cried for days,” she said. “He did not deserve that.”
Rodriguez said police should be better trained in how to handle dogs that are loose.
But the officer said the dog was very aggressive and ready to attack.
“I do not believe a Taser, pepper spray or less lethal shotgun would have been effective,” he wrote.
Rodriguez was cited for:
· Licensing Violation
· Animal Tag Violation
· Keeping a Vicious Animal
· Rabies Control Violation
· Dog Running at Large
Aurora Police had been to Rodriguez’ house before.
In April of 2013, they noticed what looked like a Pit Bull acting aggressive. They scheduled a breed evaluation, since Pit Bulls are banned in Aurora.
In August of 2013, Rodriguez reported that a neighbor was beating her dog with a stick.
In July of 2014, a Chihuahua type dog was found dead in Rodriguez’s front yard.