The police officers caught on tape last week fatally shooting a dog in front of a crowd of people are now facing criticism and even death threats from animal lovers across the nation.
A video of last Sunday’s incident quickly went viral, directing a wave of condemnation towards the Hawthorne, California Police Department.
Three police officers were involved in the arrest of 52-year-old Leon Rosby, who they say was disturbing a crime scene by videotaping it and blasting music from his car. While apprehending the man, Rosby’s pet Rottweiler, Max, jumped out of an open car window and approached the officers while barking. One policeman shot the dog four times, causing the writhing animal to slowly bleed to death on the street.
Since the cell phone video was posted on YouTube, the officers and their families have received threatening phone calls, emails and Facebook messages. In some cases, California residents who share the same name as the officers have mistakenly received threats. A shop in Glendale was flooded with angry phone calls because the storeowner’s name is the same as Hawthorne police spokesman Lt. Scott Swain.
“These aren’t just threats of ill-will,” Hawthorne Police Chief Robert Fager told NBC News. “These are absolutely threats to life.”
The police department issued a statement on Wednesday apologizing for the fatal shooting of the dog and the pain it inflicted upon animal lovers. The statement garnered thousands of critical comments on the department’s website and Facebook page.
“Unfortunately, in the midst of this social media response, fallacies are being perpetuated and outright criminal threats are being made,” the police department wrote. “In the public forum of various websites, department employees have been misidentified as the officer who shot. This has led to criminal threats of harm directed not only at city employees, but also at similarly-named public citizens who just happen to live and work in our surrounding region.”
But the department’s apology did little to calm the criticism, and angry pet lovers have continued to threaten the police and condemn their actions.
“You know you’re a disgrace when people would rather see your officers dead than an innocent dog. Find a hole, crawl in it,” Facebook user Harmit Tamber wrote on the police department’s website.