Sheriff's deputy serving eviction notice fatally shoots Md. family's dog

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Prince George's County sheriff's deputy serving an eviction notice at a Forest Heights house Friday fatally shot a Rottweiler that charged at him, officials said.

The sister of the dog's owner said the deputy should have waited for animal-control officers to arrive. The shooting comes two years after the sheriff's department came under criticism when members of a sheriff's SWAT unit stormed the home of the Berwyn Heights mayor and fatally shot two chocolate Labradors.

The sheriff's department said in a statement that the deputies called county animal-control officials to restrain the dog. The deputies had been told by the landlord that the dog was in a crate in the basement. Before entering the home, deputies knocked on the front and back doors and made a commotion, as they are trained to do before entering a home with animals, the statement said.

As deputies went through the home, the Rottweiler charged them "from an unknown location. Due to being in a confined space, with no place to retreat, the deputy discharged his firearm to protect himself and his partner from serious bodily harm," the statement said.

The sheriff's department's explanation did not satisfy Tamara Yeldell, the sister of Donya Williams, who along with her four children were being evicted.

"Why did they have to shoot an innocent dog? They're trigger-happy. They should have waited for animal control. The deputies have a job to do, and so do the animal-control officers. They should have let animal control do its job," Yeldell said.

Williams, 38, lived in the home in the unit block of Seneca Drive. The Rottweiler, Kato, was gentle with the children but would have been aggressive toward intruders, Yeldell said.

Neither Williams nor her children, 8 to 17 years old, were home when the incident occurred about 1 p.m., Yeldell said. After being called to the home, Williams experienced chest pains when she saw her belongings in the front yard and was told her dog had been killed, Yeldell said.

Cheye Calvo, the Berwyn Heights mayor whose dogs were killed, went to the Williams home and spoke with Yeldell.

Calvo, who is suing Sheriff Michael A. Jackson, alleging his deputies engaged in excessive force when they killed his dogs, said deputies have shown a disturbing propensity to kill family pets.

"This is part of a pattern," Calvo said. From 2005 to 2008, deputies shot at least nine dogs in eight incidents, according to sheriff's department records.

An internal investigation by the sheriff's department found no wrongdoing by the deputies who killed Calvo's dogs. Jackson, who is running in the Democratic primary for county executive, did not respond to a request for comment.

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