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Woman disputes Md. sheriff's department's account of shooting of family dog

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Forest Heights woman disputed the official account of the incident in which her dog was shot to death Friday by Prince George's County sheriff's deputies who had gone to her home to serve an eviction notice.

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In a statement, the sheriff's department said that deputies knocked on the front and back doors of the home and made a commotion, but they received no response indicating that a dog was present.

But Donya Williams, 38, said Monday that her 21/2- year-old Rottweiler, Kato, barked whenever anyone knocked on the door or walked by outside.

"I don't believe they" knocked, Williams said at a news conference outside the Prince George's courthouse in Upper Marlboro. "He would have barked."

Williams said Kato would be alive if deputies had waited for county animal control officials.

According to the sheriff's department statement, the deputies had called animal control officers to restrain the dog. They had been told by the landlord that the dog was kept in a crate in a basement, the statement said. But the officers, apparently thinking the dog was not in the home, did not wait for animal control officers.

As the 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.

Asked to respond to Williams's claim that the deputies had failed to knock before entering the home, spokeswoman Sgt. Yakeisha Hines said, "That's her opinion."

Hines said that the deputies had been trained how to enter a home where a dog might be present and that she was confident they knocked before entering.

She said it would not have mattered if the deputies had waited for animal control officials, because the deputies would have entered first. Deputies search homes to make sure they are safe before allowing civilians inside, Hines said.

The deputy who shot the dog is on administrative leave with pay while the sheriff's department investigates the incident, she said.

The sheriff's department was criticized two years ago after members of its SWAT unit stormed the home of the Berwyn Heights mayor and fatally shot his two black Labradors during a botched drug raid.

Authorities said Mayor Cheye Calvo's home was raided because a package of marijuana had been delivered there. Authorities later acknowledged that the mayor and his wife had nothing to do with the delivery and were not involved in drug trafficking.

An internal investigation by the sheriff's department found no wrongdoing by the deputies who killed Calvo's dogs.

Williams, an executive assistant for a national association in the District, said she was hospitalized for post-traumatic stress for two days after the shooting. She said she had spoken with Sheriff Michael A. Jackson.

Williams said Jackson told her that he was sorry but that his deputies did what they had to.

"He's already told me he believes they did the right thing" before the investigation is complete, Williams said.

Jackson did not respond to a call seeking comment.

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