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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014

School resource officer shoots dog in South Tampa

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Published:   |   Updated: February 20, 2014 at 04:41 PM

TAMPA — A pitbull mix that attacked a teenager and bit a woman who was trying fend off the dog with a rake was shot by a Robinson High School resource officer early Thursday morning just a few blocks from the school.

The 60-pound dog was taken to an veterinary clinic where it was treated for the gunshot wound, which was not serious enough to kill him.

Tampa police said the 7:45 a.m. incident occurred near the corner of West Mango and South Grady avenues, just a couple blocks east of Robinson High.

Alen Velic, 14, and a handful of other students were walking along Mango Avenue when the dog attacked, police said, biting Velic on the leg.

A passing motorist, 44-year-old Michelle Bennett, stopped, jumped out of her car and grabbed a rake to fend the dog off. The teens scampered behind a fence in a yard across the street from where the dog lived, police said.

Bennett also was bitten on the leg, police said. She was treated and released from Tampa General Hospital. Velic also was treated, police said, though a hospital spokeswoman could not find him in the hospital’s system.

Just then, Robinson High Resource Officer Willie Lucas arrived and spotted the teens behind the fence and the dog menacing them and Bennett. He got out of his car and the dog charged him, police said. Lucas, who declined to comment about the incident, drew his weapon and shot the dog.

Hillsborough County Animal Services took the dog to BluePearl, a veterinary clinic used by the county for emergency treatment. The dog’s condition had stabilized by noon and it will be quarantined for 10 days. After that, its fate is undetermined, said Ron Spiller, spokesman for animal services.

What happens to the dog “depends on what the owner wants to do,” Spiller said. If the owner, whose name was not immediately available, opts to keep the dog, the owner will be on the hook for the veterinary costs. If the owner turns the dog over to the county, it will be moved to the animal services shelter where it will be evaluated to determine its suitability for adoption, Spiller said, or if it is categorized as a dangerous dog, it may be put down.

Tampa Police Department’s internal affairs unit went to the scene, said police spokeswoman Janelle McGregor.

“Any time an officer discharges a firearm,” she said, “they go out to investigate.”

Police said the dog broke loose from a fenced yard near the corner of South Clarke Avenue, and was even videotaped by a neighbor just before the attack, barking and wandering back and forth across the street. Some neighbors said the dog seldom ran free.

Kisa Lewis, 41, stood in her carport Thursday morning after the excitement subsided. She said the dog’s owners, her next door neighbors, speak Spanish and little English. She said they own two dogs, one of which was barking as she spoke.

“We’ve had no problems in the past,” she said, holding her 16-month-old son. The dogs never were a threat and the owners appeared to take good care of them.

Barking was the only issue, she said.

“I’m surprised he bit someone,” she said. “We never see (the dogs). They basically are always in the back yard. I’ve never seen that dog out.”

The neighbor on the other side of where the dog lives said she awoke to the sound of a gunshot.

“I didn’t see, I was asleep,” said Yelena Botto, 63. “I heard the shot and the dog crying.” She said she came outside, but was told to go back inside by the police.

She said the dog seldom was loose.

“He didn’t go free,” she said, “but the dog barked when people came around. I never saw the dog before out on the street.

“If the dog attacked the officer, I think it was the right thing to do, to shoot the dog.”

Andreas Rush, 24, visits his girlfriend often on Mango Avenue and rides his motorcycle there. He said he occasionally saw the dog loose on the street, but never considered it a threat.

“He was just curious,” Rush said. He recently saw it “tagging along” with some students walking on the sidewalk and it did not appear to be menacing at all.

The dog at times, did “run up on me” on the motorcycle, and “I just chased him back to his home. He’s a pretty big dog, pretty thick. He has the power to do something.”

Rush said he didn’t see what happened Thursday morning.

“I heard the gunshot,” he said, “and that was it.”

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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