Ogden family outraged by police pit bull shooting

Wednesday , July 23, 2014 - 4:11 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN -- A family is outraged after Ogden police shot their dog in its own yard early Wednesday morning.

Police say the dog was ordered to attack them and was shot in self-defense. However, the dog’s owners dispute police’s claims that the dog was aggressive and that there was no reason to put it down.

A woman called police earlier to conduct a welfare check on her brother whom she hadn't heard from in three days, Lt. Tim Scott said. She was worried that he may be in danger of gang violence.

At about 1 a.m. Wednesday two officers responded to the address on the 2900 block of Monroe Boulevard, Scott said.

The officers rattled a chain-link fence around the home to check for a dog, but got no response, he said. The fence has a No Trespassing sign and Beware of Dog sign attached to it.

They knocked on the door several times to make contact with the subject of the welfare check before they saw the man come from the back of the home with a baseball bat. 

Officers attempted to explain the situation to the man, who refused to cooperate and shouted expletives at them, Scott said.

The man told officers that he would sic his dog on them, at which point he brought out a pit bull from behind the home. 

Officers say the man commanded the dog to “get him,” prompting the dog to move toward police in an aggressive manner.

The officer closest to the pit bull drew his gun and fired at the dog, killing it in self-defense, Scott said.

Mia Mendiola said the house that police responded to is her parents’ home. The parents are the dog’s owners.

"Chuva wasn’t just our dog, she was family,“ Mendiola said. 

The 11-year-old pit bull was given to her mother as a Mother’s Day gift, and has since been a very gentle dog, Mendiola said.

Mendiola, who lives next door to her parents, said she was awakened by multiple gunshots outside.

She went outside and saw her mother, 58-year-old Barbara Sustaipa, in a panic after seeing her dog dead. 

Sustaipa had to be taken to the hospital and was found to have suffered a heart attack, Mendiola said.

The man police were there to see was Mendiola’s sister’s boyfriend, Victor Rosa, she said.

She said she doubts police officers’ account that he was threatening them with a baseball bat and the dog.

No arrests were made at the scene. However, the Weber County Attorney’s Office is screening charges against the man for assault on police, Scott said. 

With family members outside and upset, the officers opted not to make an arrest and left the scene to deescalate the situation, although the officers had enough probable cause to arrest Rosa, Scott said.

Police said the man has a prior criminal history including simple assault, assault against a police officer and protective order violations.

Scott said an internal investigation into the officers’ actions is being conducted alongside the criminal investigation into Rosa. 

Ogden Animal Services said they have had multiple calls of animal abuse at that home, but have never been able to make contact with the owners or the dog.

Mendiola said Chuva was very loved among the family and that she has never been vicious.

"They could have done a lot of things differently,” she said. “There was absolutely no reason for her to die.”

Scott said the officers did not want to shoot the animal, but when faced with an attacking dog, police protocol calls for them to put the dog down quickly.

The dog’s remains are with Animal Services and will likely be returned to the owners.

Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or arivera@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.

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