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3/25/2005  

NEIGHBORHOOD DOG IS SHOT WITHOUT REASON BY LONG BEACH POLICE OFFICER

Dear Friends,
Below are accounts of a tragic happening that took place on Wednesday, March 23rd in Long Beach California. This happened to a friend of mine. This is not heresy or a fabrication. This is a true account as told by my friend. Please read below, as we need all your help to bring light to this matter and hold those accountable for this grossly unfortunate incident.

I will be updating this blog at the end of JP's statement with new information. Your comments, advice and trackbacks are greatly appreciated.
3/27 **Media Contact information is provided within this post and in the comments section.
PLEASE CALL AND EMAIL!
******
My name is John Donahue. My girlfriend's name is Jennie Ullrich. We have lived together in the Daisy Artist's studios in the Wilmore section of Long Beach for over three years. We have two mutts we rescued from the pound when they were pups. We love them like children. We invested a lot of time socializing them to be non-aggressive. We invested a lot of time training them at dog school. They are great dogs. We are responsible owners. We can provide countless character witnesses from our building and our neighborhood to corroborate those facts.

At six AM on Wednesday morning, March 23rd, Long Beach Police shot one of our family dogs by the children's playground in Drake Park. The dog's name is Bazoo. We have played fetch with our dogs in the early morning in Drake Park every day since we got them.

The facts of the shooting are as follows:

Jennie and Bazoo were playing fetch at 6 AM in Drake Park. Bazoo had just chased down her favorite ball. An unknown LBPD Officer stepped out from behind a car and crossed her path. Bazoo stopped to look at him, curious, ball in her mouth. Then the Officer pulled his gun and shot her in the head. Bazoo went down. Officer never issued a word of warning. He didn't say stop. He didn't tell Bazoo no. He didn't even look at her owner standing 20 feet away. He just pulled his gun and opened fire.

Of course, the Unknown Officer claims Bazoo "attacked" or "charged" him. I'd really like to know just how, exactly, a dog attacks with a tennis ball in its mouth? It can't bite. And just how does a dog show aggression with a ball in its mouth? It can't growl or even bare its teeth. If the officer had noticed any of these things, he would have seen Bazoo was not charging anything but her ball. She was playing fetch and she was stopped when he pulled the trigger.

Despite these obvious facts, The Unknown Officer shot Bazoo anyway. To make matters worse, the first shot wasn't enough for him. Jennie screamed and pleaded for him to stop. She told him the dog wouldn't hurt him. He told her to stand back and then he shot Bazoo again on the ground. Apparently he felt that a dog shot in the head and bleeding on the ground with a ball in its mouth was still in "attack mode" or "charging".

Somehow Bazoo jumped up and ran away, scared to death and in shock. Jennie tried to catch her. Bazoo was too scared. She ran all the way home and scratched to be let in where it was safe, leaving bloody paw prints on the door. But no one could hear her. She finally hid in an alley afraid, traumatized, badly wounded, and confused by the horrible thing that had happened to her. That's where Jennie finally found Bazoo, with her ball still in her mouth.

Through it all Jennie was right there. She watched it all happen, powerless to stop it. When I finally got to the scene all I could do was hold her in my arms while she balled and screamed over and over "Why'd you shoot my dog!? Why!"

There simply is no justifiable reason. The Unknown Officer used excessive force when he shot Bazoo. There were so many other options available to him that his actions are inexcusable:

-Bazoo could not have attacked him or demonstrated aggression with a ball in her mouth. From the get go, he did not properly assess the situation.

-Bazoo never charged him. She was retrieving a ball and he crossed into her running path. She was stopped when he pulled the trigger.

-Bazoo's owner was right there waiting for Bazoo to bring back her ball. If the Unknown Officer was paying attention to his surroundings, he would've observed them playing fetch. If he had stopped to think, he would've known Bazoo wasn't a threat.

-The Unknown Officer could've asked Jennie to call her dog. Bazoo's been to dog school. I was there. She did well. She comes when she's called.

-The Unknown Officer was standing by his patrol car when it happened. If he really thought he was in danger, he could've simply got in and shut the door.

-The Unknown Officer could have chosen to use non-lethal force. I don't know what else he had but I know Patrol carries Tasers and mace. Police should be trained to use non-lethal force. Guns are a last resort.

-The Unknown Officer could have stopped shooting once Bazoo was on the ground. The fact that he didn’t is pathetic, mean, and inexcusable.

-Finally, if Unknown Officer knew anything about the neighborhood he was working in, he would've known that Jennie, myself, and our dogs have played fetch in Drake Park every morning for years. In that time, Bazoo has never attacked anyone and not one LBPD Officer has ever asked that they be put on a leash. Jennie, myself, and our dogs are fixtures in the neighborhood and everyone who lives there or knows the neighborhood knows that Bazoo is not and never has been a threat to anyone.

Unknown Officer completely failed to correctly assess the situation and chose not to use any of the non-lethal options available to him. His first reaction was to pull his gun and use deadly force. What's going to happen when Unknown Officer comes up against a teenager with a cell phone in his hand? Will he fail to observe the facts, think its a gun, and open fire? Will he keep firing once the suspect is on the ground? Is this the kind of person we want roaming our streets with a gun? I don't think so. We must hold the people we trust to keep us all safe to a higher standard than this. Yesterday it was my dog. Tomorrow it could be your son.

To add insult to injury, the aftermath of the shooting was handled in an exceedingly poor fashion by the Department:

-Bazoo was bleeding to death on the pavement for close to an hour before she received any medical attention. We begged for the police to let us take her to the hospital but were refused permission to do so. We were held in "custody" like criminals while our dog was bleeding to death waiting for animal control to pick her up.

-We were told we had to remain in custody until the Watch Commander showed up. This took another hour. When he finally did make his appearance, he was aggressive, confrontational, and insistent that the dog attacked his Officer despite the fact that he wasn’t there. We politely tried to engage him in dialogue about the incident. He puffed up his chest and said, confrontationally: "You calling me a liar!?" He didn't want to know the facts. He just wanted to intimidate us, cover his ass, and protect his man.

-After the Watch Commander fiasco, we were forced to remain in custody for another hour which prevented us from going to the hospital to see our wounded dog. When homicide finally showed up for the OIS investigation, they tried to Mirandize Jennie like a criminal and get her statement on tape. When she invoked her Sixth Amendment right to council, they kept pressing. Finally, when they realized she wouldn't talk to them, they wrote her a misdemeanor ticket for having a dog off leash and left. This is just plain pathetic, political covering up. It makes us sick.

-Since the time of the incident, myself and one of my lawyers have made numerous requests for police reports, badge numbers, and names of the officer/officers involved in the incident. As of this writing, not one document, name, or badge number has been provided. My phone calls have not been answered and messages have not been returned.

-Despite the fact that no information has been given to us, Long Beach PD saw fit to provide a patently false, self-serving account of the story to The Press Telegram that ran in yesterday’s paper. The refusal of Long Beach PD to provide any information about the incident has prevented us from filing this complaint and speaking to the paper ourselves. LBPD is trying to control the information to manipulate public opinion and escape liability.

Bazoo was admitted to Lakewood Animal Hospital on the morning she was shot. She was released that evening but the following day was stricken with life threatening Grand Mal Seizures from the bullet wound to her head. She is currently at Advanced Critical Care in Tustin for more treatment and observation. We don't know if she will live. If she does live, she may never be the same fun loving, fetch playing dog we raised.

What has happened is a gross injustice and can not stand. We will not let it stand. Please help us set this right any way you can.

Thank you,
JP Donahue and Jennie Ullrich

UPDATE: Saturday, March 26 - 9:45am
Here is the press release the LBPD sent to the newspapers immediatley after the incident. Note it says nothing about shooting the dog twice, or the fact that Bazoo still had her tennis ball in her mouth and therefore was in NO WAY attacking or aggressive.
http://www.longbeach.gov/civica/press/display.asp?layout=4&Entry=360

UPDATE: 2:55pm
For those of you who have emailed me asking how to help:
JP's email address is:
mcjpd3@yahoo.com
if you have posted my personal emails or this blog link anywhere else on the web, please comment below and tell us where, so we make sure everyone is updated.

UPDATE: Sunday, March 27 - 3:14pm
PLEASE CONTACT THESE SOURCES AND LET THEM KNOW ABOUT THIS SITUATION:
-KCBS CBS 2: 323.460.3316 kcbstvnews@cbs.com & click here to submit an email
-NBC 4: story@nbc4.tv
-KTLA 5: Lynette Romero Investigates; click here to submit an email
-ABC 7 News Tips: 877.777.6397 or click here to submit an email
-KCAL 9 News: 323.467.9999
-FOX11:323.460.5500
newsdesk@fox11.com - undercover@fox11.com
talkback@fox11.com (GoodDayLA...Jillian Barbarie is a HUGE animal lover!!)
-UPN 13: 310.584.2000 upndesk@upn13.com

UPDATE: Monday, March 28 - 10:12am
We are getting some disappointing reports from people calling City Official's offices and receiving rude and dismissive responses (see comments section below). Therefore, it looks like more respectful, gracious but firm calls to Public Officials are necessary, in order to convince them that this is an important issue.
Below are direct numbers you can call. JP has already contacted these people as well. If you don't wish to go the phone route, please take 5 minutes to send emails to the above news media addresses.
1. Chief Of Police Anthony W. Batts: 562.570.73012
2. City Manager Gerald R. Miller: 562.570.65553
-Assistent City Manager (Mr. Miller is on vacation) Chris Shippey(?)
3. City Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal: 562.570.6919

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 29 - 8:36am
Bad news. Attempts to resolve this issue without litigation have been thwarted by the LBPD who is refusing to tell the truth. The Press-Telegram at least ran a follow up story to their pathetic initial coverage of the incident, but the facts remail twisted. Here is the article. We need your help contacting the media to investigate this incident now, more than ever. This is not just about a dog. This is about a gross abuse of power by an individual who chooses deadly force before all other options. If the tables were turned and a civilian shot a dog, both he and the DOG would be held accountable to the full extent of the law. Why is a policeman exempt from this? He was not attacked.

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 29 - 5:43pm
Good news! NBC Channel 4 is airing a story about Bazoo tonight at 6pm! Let's hope there's more where that came from!
Also, an Amazon Donation Fund has been set up for those of you wishing to contribute.

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 29 - 7:35pm
fyi: The Police Officer who shot Bazoo is Sgt. Steve Lauricella.

UPDATE: Wednesday, March 30 - 2:08pm
I've sent emails to all the news outlets urging them to cover this story like NBC. Feel free to do the same! :)
CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO "BEEPERS FOR BAZOO" - a Fund to help Bazoo's family with legal & vet fees.

UPDATE: Thursday, April 7 - 8:20am
All your help and good thoughts seem to be working little by little. The OC Weekly will be writing an article about the ordeal for next week's issue. KTLA 5's Lynette Romero contacted us and is looking into doing a story.
I saw Bazoo on Sunday. She gets really tired easilly, but was wagging her tail and sooo sweet despite her bandaged, stumpy little foot and her head wounds.
I also have the written witness statement from the gentleman who saw what happened. I think I will try to post it somehow for you all to see. Thank you thank you thank you!

UPDATE: Thursday, April 14 - 12:22pm
I hope to see many of you at tonight's fundraiser!
CLICK HERE to read the OC Weekly article.