A graphic video released today by Gothamist shows the moment that an officer with NYPD shoots a pit bull called Star on a busy NY street. Star rushed at the officer in an attempt to protect her owner, who lay unconscious at the side of the road.
According to a passerby named Johnny Rodriguez, he and several other people called the New York Police Department, when they observed the man, identified by police as Lech Stankiewicz, having a seizure at the side of the road.
When police arrived at the scene, Rodriguez said, they attempted to approach Stankiewicz, but the man's dog, Star, began to growl at them. According to Rodriguez, Star had already approached another passerby, Larissa Udovik, who got too close to her owner. "It grabbed her pants, but it didn't bite her," he told the Gothamist, but "then the dog starts running at the cop."
What follows is a heartbreaking scene that begins the moment the police officer shoots the dog. Yelping loudly, Star rolls around, crying in obvious pain. The dismayed crowd who witness the shooting, and are listening to the dog howling in pain, appear traumatized, shouting at officers, "Why did you shoot the dog?"
Astonishingly, in all the mayhem, nobody pays any attention to Stankiewicz, who is still lying at the side of the road motionless. Finally, after what seems like an interminable amount of time, Star falls quiet.
Still nobody checks on the man.
As yet more time passes, Star remarkably stirs once more. The pit bull is now rolling back and forth in the middle of the road. She then stops moving altogether. By the middle of the five-minute mark, Stankiewicz still hasn't been checked on. Shortly afterwards, police move Rodriguez away from the scene, later escorting him to the 9th Precinct, where Gothamist says, they uploaded his video "for evidence."
The officer's actions have been hailed by some and criticized heavily by others. According to the Local East Village, Star had a history of aggressive protection. Brandon Verna, a homeless man acquainted with the owner of the dog, claimed he had been bitten in the knee by Star for trying to help her master once before.
Since then, Varna told the Local, "Most of us figured out that when he’s passed out, whether he’s overdosing or not, leave him alone. If he’s going to die, call an ambulance and have them deal with it because no one wants to get bitten."
A police source also called the shooting "justified." The "video of the encounter" said the source, "leaves no question that the officers acted properly."
But others have criticized NYPD for how they handled the case. Doug Halsey, the director of Ready For Rescue, a non-profit animal rescue group, told the Gothamist that with irresponsible owners creating problems such as this, city police "need to be better trained to handle the situation and be equipped with the proper tools and taught how to use them to control dogs and other animals in situations like these."
Halsey was criticizing the use of pepper spray by another police officer on the dog, an act he said, that would only aggravate aggression.
Christian Pimentel, 21 told the New York Post, "It was just protecting its owner," while another witness, who did not wish to be identified, said, "They just let the dog bleed on the sidewalk, right in front of children."
A worker at a nearby KFC said that Star and the homeless man were both friendly and harmless.
Remarkably, both Stankiewicz and Star survived. Star remains in the care of the Animal Care & Control in NYC, said the East Village Local, but there also seems to be some discrepancy on how the dog is doing. According to Animal Control, the pit bull is stable, but the police source said that Star's outcome "didn't look very optimistic."
The video of the incident is posted on YouTube