Pit bull shot by sheriff’s deputies; community responds

Diablo was shot Friday night by Monroe County sheriff's deputies responding to a call. (photo: www.facebook.com/JusticeForDiablo)

There’s a hot controversy stirring here in my hometown of Rochester, NY. I confess I’m late coming to the story, being wrapped up as I am in family tree research. But I’ve finally had time to catch up and … well, it’s quite a story. Here’s what happened.

Last Friday, June 2, two Monroe County Sheriff deputies responded to a call at a home in the Rochester suburb of Perinton, NY. News reports say the officers were responding to a call for a car blocking a driveway at the home of Gary Brockler; I’ve also heard it was a call for a party disturbing the neighborhood.

From a 13WHAM news story:

“Diablo was inside the open garage at his own home and restricted by an invisible fence.  When two sheriff’s deputies walked up the dark driveway on Whitney Street its likely dog and man startled each other. With split seconds to make a decision, deputies relied on protocol to treat a dog running at them as though it were a person running at them with a knife.  They fired four shots.”

Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn said on a local radio show that New York State law allows officers to use deadly force when confronted with an aggressive animal. Brockler claims that the dog was not aggressive, that there was no party at the house, and officers had no reason to shot his beloved family pet. Neighbors back up Brockler’s story, adding that Diablo was a friendly dog who was anything but aggressive.

As expected, the incident has sparked outrage in the animal rescue community along with the expected “all pit bulls are dangerous” other side of the argument.

And as expected, things have already spiraled out of control.

Take the Facebook posting by one man, offering a $1,000 bounty on the heads of the deputies who shot Diablo. Responding on WCMF’s “The Break Room,” O’Flynn said, “This is rather unsettling because we did see the Facebook alert through the Crime Intelligence Center … He offered a thousand dollars to anybody who would shoot the deputies.”

There was a rally today, and according to some who were there, it was a bit out of hand. Screaming, yelling at nearby school children, and one man with a stuffed beagle hanging from a pole (whatever that was about).

Jenn Fedele, founder of Pitty Love Rescue, wrote on Facebook:

“It is awesome to see people stand together but screaming obscenities does not further your cause. We are already viewed as ‘those crazy animal people’ and not taken seriously enough as it is. Try to make your points in a reasonable manner. You can be loud and make yourself heard without sounding like a raving lunatic.”

She’s 100% correct. Advocates for pit bulls work very, very hard to rehab dogs, train dogs, and help make them ambassadors for their breed in our community. When protestors get out of hand or make threats on the lives of officers (or call radio shows and ask for the dog’s head to mount on their wall … yes, that happened, too), it makes their rescue efforts even more difficult.

On a hopeful note, O’Flynn said the investigation will look into the specific incident but also at how officers should respond to family pets in situations like this – as opposed, I assume, to situations where there are loose dogs acting aggressively. (Yes, there is a difference.) “Is there something we may need to change or should change to improve our performance?  We’ll look into that too,” he said in the story.

Let’s hope so. I had an experience a few months ago when officers responded to numerous calls on our street for cars parked overnight waiting for an estate sale the next day. When one officer came to talk to me, he tried to pet Bailey over the fence. She barked and jumped and was quite frankly out of control. When I told the officer not to pet her over the fence, he asked, “Why?” “Because she might bite you”, I replied; I refrained from adding “Duh.” “Really?” he said in a “you’re an idiot” tone of voice, then rolled his eyes at me and walked away shaking his head.

A brief lesson in dog behavior would teach an officer that even in that situation, where the officer is just trying to be nice, he shouldn’t reach over a fence to pet a dog. Dogs protect their property; when you reach over into their space, they view it as a threat. (Or they jump and bark and inadvertently bite someone; had that experience as well.)

In Diablo’s case, it would make sense that two strangers approaching him, in his own yard, would cause at the very least barking and at worst an attack. And quite frankly, in that scenerio Diablo is in the right. A dog doesn’t know the difference between a sheriff or a burglar; he just knows “stranger in my space.”

And no, I don’t think police officers had the right to shoot the dog. But according to the 13WHAM story, “Since 2009, Rochester Police Department Officers have shot at 78 dogs, killing 30 of them.  More than one-third of the shootings occurred when police were executing a search warrant – in some cases bursting into a home.”

Obviously it’s a valid point that while responding to calls that there will be cases where officers are faced with an aggressive dog. But there has to be a better way to respond in situations like this one.

In any event, this story has reached a fevered pitch locally, and will likely continue to spawn rallies and protests and lots of gossip. I was at the coffee shop yesterday when a group of local men (who apparently meet regularly to catch up on the day’s gossip; now I know where to go to get the inside scoop) spent quite a bit of time discussing Diablo, his owner, other people they know involved in the situation, and details I hadn’t heard so far. The story is all over the news, and I guarantee that before long you’ll see it mentioned in a national story.

Brockler has retained the services of local attorney John Parinello, so it’s likely some sort of lawsuit is forthcoming. O’Flynn seems sincere in news reports about investigating and also making changes moving forward. I’ll try and keep  you posted.

And if I can offer some advice to readers upset about this situation? Take Jenn Fedele’s advice and try to engage in civilized discussion. If you’re truly interested in the well-being of the animals, make your case – for pit bulls, for the police, whatever side you’re on – in a well-reasoned, rational manner rather than adding gasoline to an already very emotional fire.

  • Becky Castellano

    My husband was at the rally today…it did not get out of hand I do not know who posted or said that. He said it was peaceful and other then the chant that arose justice for Diablo there was no screaming at anyone. In fact he took a video of all the participants at the rally including the ones that brought their dogs and kids with them. We live in the neighborhood and are dog owners ourselves. People can question and criticize Gary for the way he and Diablo lived in their space, but those person’s are not familiar or have never seen them other than what is shown on the news and assume things or come to their own conclusions is unfair. Diablo was a well known pet by everyone who passed the house daily including the police dept. He truely lived the life of Riley and was well loved by many. The mailman,fedex,UPS,garbage,and the lawn maintenance guys never had any problems with the dog and are quite upset at the loss of their friend as we all are. Truthfully I think the 911 call is bogus and if there is one where is the recording. I hope the person that made this call (if one was made) is happy with the outcome of their prank!

    • Eddie Cintron

      I agree with Becky and let me add that Diablo and this will blow you away because it hasn’t been mention and the trainer that trained Diablo is modest. The trainer that trained Diablo is a certified Police K9 trainer and she trained Diablo and indicated that Diablo never ever showed signs of aggression. The facility where Diablo was trained is a beautiful serene lodge for vacationing pet owners and those that leave their canines for training.
      The sheriff’s department doesn’t know that Diablo was trained by a police K9 trainer, this trainer corrected a police K9 that was going to be removed from the police department because of his scent incapability and this trainer corrected it.
      Now, who in this picture can be wrong the neighbors, the UPS guy, the mailman, the lawn service people, the garbage pick-up man none of these ever had incident with Diablo except 2 police officers that were there on a parking violation which warranted a ticket and not lead to someone’s lost beloved pet (Violation of 4th Right Amendment)
      The 4th Amendment protects our property which includes our dogs which by the state are considered property (another law that has to change there are living creatures not property)
      Diablo was trained in a serene surrounding in Walworth, New York and then went to live in the Town Of Penfield suburb to Rochester.
      I am meeting with the Sheriff’s Department on 8/2/2012 on how we can make stride in correcting this type of incidents from repeating itself.
      I agree with the blogger that in these case’s they should be civil and understanding to make things right why throw more fuel in the fire lets quench the fire and find ways to change the ways our pets are treated.

  • Ethan Craft

    Actually at one point the protesters yelled and chanted “dog killers” to some Sherriff’s deputies who were inside the compound. Are you saying the news 10 was lying about that? Also there was the nut who placed a $1000 bounty on the deputies. Our Police shouldn’t have had to deal with this type of bullshit. I feel bad about what happened but the owner should have kept the dog in the house. According the D&C the owner was inside sleeping; I’m very curious why someone would keep a garage door open with their dog inside if they were a sleep.

    What do you expect a sheriff’s deputy to do when you have dog running at you in the dark like that? Also the pool boy and the fed ex man come during the day time not in the middle of the night so that comparison fails.

    • Abt

      Ethan, I do not see a problem with what the protesters had said. I do see a problem with the hogwash you’re trying to sneak in.

      • Sophia

        Abt,
        What part of a dog running at a deputy and them shooting it in self defense is hogwash? People bitch about officers and deputies all the time, and usually the people whining about officers are the ones who call 911 and depend on deputies and officers to save their asses all the time. Let me know when you want to get paid shit to risk your life every day and turn around and have mopes complain when you have to shoot an animal (or a person god forbid) to protect yourself. Seriously- it’s a dog over a human life. Get a grip! And even if the dog wasn’t actually a threat, it was running towards the deputy and he had no way of knowing if it was going to bite him or lick him. Faced with a large, unfamiliar dog charging at you, can you really tell me you’d stand there twiddling your thumbs and wait to see if he went for your jugular?

    • http://HUFFPOST TRAINJANE

      NOT REALLY FAILING AND HERE IS THE REASON, THERE WAS NO PARTY THERE AND TWO INTELLIGENT DEPUTIES COULD SEE THIS AND HEAR AS WELL. SO THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN CALLING BACK TO DISPATCH ABOUT THIS BEFORE KNOCKING ON A DOOR AT THE WRONG ADDRESS, IF INDEED IT WAS THE WRONG ADRESS WHICH WITH WHAT I’VE READ IT MUST HAVE BEEN. IF THESE TWO CAN’T FIND AWAY TO DO THEIR JOBS WITHOUT SHOOTING AT A DOG WHOSE TERRITORY THEY’VE INVADED THEY SHOULD NOT INVADE! THEY COULD HAVE CALLED INTO DISPATCH FOR THE PHONE NUMBER AND CALLED THE OWNER.THE DOG SHOULD HAVE BEEN LEASHED/CHAINED OR SECURED. HE WASN’T.THE OFFICERS SHOULD HAVE NOT SHOT A WEAPONTOWARD A RESIDENT PERIOD UNLESS TAKING WEAPONS FIRE THEMSELVES.
      I THINK THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH ADRENILEIN JUNCKIES WITH POLICE AND THEY ABUSE THEIR POWER OF LAW ENFOREMENT. I THINK THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED HERE. THEY SHOULD BE FIRED,”BOTH OF THEM”! IMMEDIATELY. THEY WOULD KILL A HUMANBEING JUST AS QUICK AS THEY DID THIS DOG.I WOULD NEVER TRUST NEITHER OF THESE OFFICERS AGAIN. THE PEOPLE IN THIS TOWN SHOULD DEMAND THEY ARE FIRED IMMEDIATELY!
      P. IN Ga.

  • Davy V.
  • Jennifer

    I was also at the rally and while things may not have gotten completely out of hand, there were a couple instances of people screaming obscenities (unnecessary) and another instance of one man screaming over and over again at a group of children walking by on a field trip, “Don’t kill our dogs!!”. Completely uncalled for. He also screamed right in the face of the person I was there with when she asked him what the beagle hanging from a pole that he was carrying represented. I’m all for people having a voice but when that voice appears to be crazy, you are rarely heard.


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