Body cam footage: Police officer charged by four dogs shoots and kills one of them
As a Hawai’i Police Department officer was walking across a lawn to his patrol car, body cam footage from his partner shows four pit bulls running in a beeline for the officer, jumping up on him and clawing at his legs.
The officer, who police say feared for his life, drew his service weapon and shot one of the dogs, who later died. The officer was uninjured.
“Incidents in law enforcement can go from 0 to 10 in a matter of seconds,” said new Hawai’i Police Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz. “In this case, the officer was charged by several large aggressive animals and had less than three seconds to react and make a decision on how best to preserve his own life.
“That being said, any loss of life is tragic. We mourn the loss of the dog in this case, who ultimately, was a beloved family member.”
Big Island police are investigating the “dangerous dog” shooting that happened on Jan. 28 at a residence in the 92-1100 block of Kaumahana Street in Pāhala. Detectives from the department’s Office of Professional Standards responded and opened a standard internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the firearm discharge.
The call began shortly before 5 p.m. Two officers went to the residence to serve a restraining order on a 52-year-old male. As they knocked on the door and announced their presence, the officers could hear several dogs barking from inside.
But after about two minutes of trying to get someone to answer the door, they appeared to believe nobody was at home and began to leave the premises.
As they leave, a woman opens the door and the dogs dash out the door, pass the first officer who is in the carport and run directly to the officer who was in the yard.
The dogs appear to be wagging their tails, but the incident happens quickly. Police say the officer was afraid for his life as one of the dogs jumped up toward his upper torso, snapping its jaws closed as if it was attempting to bite.
Once the shot went off, all the dogs retreated, and the officer kept telling them to get back as he walked backward to try to distance himself from the dogs.
The residents of the home escorted the remaining dogs back into the house, where they were secured without further incident.
The injured canine, called Kai, retreated to the residence’s carport area and would later die.
Nikki Vander Elst, 16, who opened the door for the officers, told Hawai’i News Now the incident unfolded fast.
“I didn’t know there was much I could do because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get there in time because he already had his hand on his gun,” Vander Elst told the TV station. “They’re full-size pit bulls, and I think he probably was scared. I froze … our dogs have never been aggressive.”
Vander-Elst’s sister, Alohilani Camelo, told Hawai’i News Now that they think the dog’s shooting and subsequent death is a crime.
“They’re labeling him as a vicious dog when he actually wasn’t — [the police officer] pulled a gun on him when he could’ve used anything else to detain him,” Camelo told the TV station. “It’s just not fair.”
But it can be difficult to tell when dogs are attacking or playing. Just four days ago, a postal worker in North Carolina was seriously hurt after being attacked by two large dogs while delivering mail, according to WSOC-TV. It happened when the property owner opened the door and two Great Danes attacked. The pet owner said the dogs had never bitten anyone before.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 808-935-3311 or contact Area II Criminal Investigation Section Detective Donovan Kohara at 808-326-4646, ext. 267, or via email at [email protected].