Last November, Larry Massey, along with his service dog, pulled over to the side of the road right before going into a seizure. When Massey regained his consciousness, he woke up to find out that his service dog, Butch was shot and killed by an Okeechobee police officer.
According to the police, at 11:59 p.m on November 11, they received a call saying that there was an unconscious man inside his car stopped on the side of the road. Two officers known as Rojas and Daigneault responded to this call and they found Massey having a seizure, accompanied by his service dog.
These two policemen claimed that they were well aware of Massey’s medical condition and attempted to revive him with a sternal rub – this procedure is the action of rubbing your knuckles on the patient’s sternum.
As one of the officers was reviving him, they reported that the service dog attacked them. The report stated that Butch bit at an officer’s pant leg before being kicked away, then he proceeded to grab an officer’s arm. At the third time the dog attacked, one of the police officers shot him. There was no pepper spray or taser attempt before the shooting was done. It was also not stated in the report that any of the police officers had injuries.
While the police officers remain adamant that the service dog was aggressive, Massey claims they misunderstood what was happening because of the tense situation.
WPTV conducted an exclusive interview with Okeechobee Police Chief Robert Peterson:
“Police said Daigneault pushed the dog away with his foot, but the dog lunged at Daigneault again, grabbing the officer’s arm. Daigneault pushed the dog away a second time, but the dog lunged at Daigneault’s face. Police said Daigneault then shot the dog once to protect himself and others. This is an unfortunate situation because the officer was doing what he’s trained to do, protecting himself and other people.”
Peterson also stated that officers have had a long history with Massey’s seizures, so he couldn’t explain why the dog attacked them.
“You really feel for the dog, and the dog’s owner, and the officer,” said Chief Peterson. He also added that he didn’t believe that the dog was formally trained to be a service dog.
“It was a service dog to that individual. He does have seizures, and he felt the dog was helpful to him and provided him support. So as far as we’re concerned, for him it was a service dog,” said Chief Peterson.
The officer that fired the weapon is now on administrative leave, which is a standard procedure, although he justified the shooting. There were multiple witnesses to back up the officer’s story of the dog attacking.
“We have independent witnesses that actually saw the dog attack the officer, and the officer didn’t shoot the dog until it made its third attempt at biting him,” said Chief Peterson. “So unless something else comes up in the investigation, where we stand now, the officer acted appropriately.”
While the police chief felt that the dog shooting was fair, other people who could’ve responded first on the scene such as an EMT would have been forced to deal with the situation without having to shoot the dog.
How come other professions such as postal workers, pizza delivery guys and the UPS successfully go through their daily routines without once killing dogs they come in contact with, but the police use their firearms so quickly?