Ogden police shoot, kill dog; 911 tapes related to case released

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OGDEN, Utah -- Ogden Police have now released 911 tapes from the call that led to a welfare check and a pit bull being shot and killed.

Police said they were attacked, and an internal affairs investigation will determine if their actions were justified.

The dog owners said it was excessive force, and they intend to sue.

There are two very different sides to what happened outside 2965 Monroe Blvd. in Ogden. Police said an out-of-state phone call late Tuesday night led them to the Sustaita family's home.

Caller: "I don't live in the Ogden area, but I have a brother who lives there and I'm kind of worried because I haven't heard from him in a while."

The caller asked police to check on 34-year-old Hector Rosa, who lives at the Monroe Boulevard home with his girlfriend. The caller said Rosa made comments on Facebook that left her concerned.

Caller: "He posted, can somebody please help me get out of here? I need to leave Utah and then nobody's heard from him since. And he kinda made a threat .. Ogden 13 gang. He posted on his Facebook page a while ago, f--- them and they're a bunch of blah, blah, blah. I just want to make sure that he's OK, that he's alive and nobody's hurt him."

Dispatcher: "OK, I'll send them out there."

When police arrived, they said they noticed the "beware of dog" sign and shook the fence, announcing themselves but never heard a response until they walked on the property. Police said the suspect came out of the backyard with a baseball bat and the family's pit bull "Chula."

"There was a verbal exchange between the officer, at which time the individual siced the dog on the officer," said Lt. Will Cragun of the Ogden Police Department.

The officer shot and killed Chula, who was a Mother's Day gift and had been with the family 11 years, since the dog was a puppy.

"I don't think they thought before they did something, and now my dog is dead and that dog was just like a kid to me," homeowner Barbara Sustaita said.

"I think it's ridiculous that they have to take such desperate measures to shoot dogs; a dog can be pepper-sprayed and run away," said Mia Mendiola, a relative of the family.

"My dog doesn't even know how to attack," Sustaita added.

She doesn't believe Chula charged at the officer.

However, Ogden Police Department officials said animal control has had two previous reports alleging that Chula has been aggressive.

"Obviously, the officer felt threatened," Cragun said.

Police said they didn't arrest the suspect because they didn't want to add to an already emotional situation, but police plan on asking the Weber County Attorney to screen charges. Hector Rosa has a criminal record, including a domestic violence conviction. Ogden Police claim he's assaulted an officer before and feel he used Chula as a weapon.

Meanwhile, the Sustaita family doesn't blame Rosa. They feel police could have used non-lethal force and are currently looking for lawyers who will take their case.

30 comments

  • Joshua

    Sicking a dog on someone is a lethal attack. Why would police respond in a nonlethal way to a lethal attack? The job isn’t a game. For police, any situation can change into life or death. It is sad that the dog was killed and my heart goes out to the family. It is also possible that the police did not act appropriately. But, considering the risks officers take to keep people safe, I give this Officer the benefit of the doubt until I see proof otherwise.

    • bob

      Everyone thinks the officer should just allow the dog to attack and bite him next time… The 50 cent bullet is way cheaper than the medical bills if that dog would have been allowed to get to the officer. He not only eliminated the threat, he saved tax payers dollars.

      • Jessie Raines

        Where is the proof that the dog was attacking? Where is his body cam? Cops lie to cover themselves when they don’t think there is video. It is not a cop’s job to use lethal force as a first option. Pepper spray would have been fine IF the dog was indeed attacking, which until the police can prove otherwise, I don’t believe them.

      • sedna

        Police Officers killed on duty over past 50 years:

        by a yellow jacket or bee sting 2

        by gunfire 4,143

        by a cow 1

        by a dog 0

        A cop kills a family pet every 98 minutes in America.
        People who are afraid of dogs should not be hired as cops. I never cease to be amazed that somehow dogs are never shot by mail delivery people, door to door salespeople, Fed Ex delivery people, UPS drivers, pool maintenance people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gardeners, home repair people, meter readers….
        This cop did not save the taxpayers money. If the person actually told the dog to attack, that person would be in jail. He is not. Juries are awarding $300,000 and up. ..paid by taxpayers. Much cheaper to train the cops.

      • Billy Hunt

        Laura Scarry is a Chicago based attorney who represents police officers accused of state and federal civil rights violations. Last month she spoke at a seminar for International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), where she advised those officer’s attending of the family member status dogs now share in most households.

        The precedent in place that many dog defender attorneys use is a result of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the case of Fuller v Vines, 36 F.3d 65,68 (9th Cir. 1994). In simple language, the officer shooting the dog constituted a violation of the dog owner’s civil rights based on the part of the Fourth Amendment that deals with search and seizure. At least three federal circuit court decisions have found an officer guilty of violating this amendment when the officer killed the family dog.

        To police officers who may be reading this article, in simple language it means dogs are now considered protected under the Fourth Amendment. If you shoot a family dog, the family will likely sue you, your police department and your city. Combine this with the change in perception by the courts, a guilty verdict is highly likely. A few officer’s have been charged with animal cruelty for acting irresponsibly. Many times this shows not only a lack of common sense, but also an officer who shows no compassion while performing his duties.

        This also means a police department internal investigation may find an officer guilty of a civil rights violation. With the number of lawsuits being filed, more and more officer’s who take it upon themselves to kill the family dog will be personally held liable for their actions. Police officers will likely find themselves under arrest for animal cruelty in the near future, should they act without very strong cause to kill an innocent dog.

        Please circulate this article among dog owning friends, as well as any police personnel who need a bit of training as to how to treat a family dog while on the dogs property.

    • William Grigg

      “Sicking a dog on someone is a lethal attack.”
      Indeed it is — which is why any citizen unduly menaced by a K-9 “officer” has a lawful and constitutionally protected right — whether recognized or not — to kill that weaponized animal in self-defense.

    • Jessie Raines

      They know the risks when they took the job. Their job isn’t to shoot first and ask questions later. Where are their body cams? I want proof of what they say happened. Massive amounts of video have proven that officers lie.

    • Hope

      You actually believe anything a pig says?
      You heard the news guy say that he was told that the guy assaulted a police officer but there was no record of it. Proves right there those pigs are lying to cover themselves to seem like a victims.

    • Billy Hunt

      FacebookTwitterPinterest LinkedinGoogle Plus
      March 1, 2013
      Law enforcement officers have now been warned in a trade publication not to shoot family dogs.

      James P. Gaffney recently wrote an article which appeared in the online magazine for police personnel called Law Enforcement Today. In his article he told police officers to expect a lawsuit should they wrongfully kill a family dog while performing their job as an officer. Mr. Gaffney is highly qualified in these matters, as he served with a metro-New York police department for over 25 years as a patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant and an executive officer. He also teaches university level criminal justice courses as an adjunct professor in the NYC area.

      Gaffney wrote that police officer’s need to realize that procedures within the law enforcement field change from time to time. What was acceptable behavior for an officer ten years ago may be considered entirely unethical in this period of time. This includes how the family dog is to be treated.

      More and more family dogs are living as a member of the family. No longer confined to chains or tethers, most dogs these days enjoy the luxury of living, eating and sleeping inside with family members. For those with fenced in yards, this is merely a way to confine family dogs as they take potty breaks. In the old days, the fence meant safety for the dog. Unfortunately, that has changed with the new breed of officer, supposedly serving the public, who has the attitude to shoot the dog first and ask questions later. The new status quo these days is when an officer kills a family dog, they have in effect robbed that family of the years left with what many dog owners consider another “child.”

      Police departments nationwide advise their officers to take whatever measures are necessary to keep themselves safe when facing down a dog. In most of the dog shootings that take place today, the officer involved is sorely lacking in both common sense and compassion. Whenever a dog is seen inside a fence, the first thing an officer should do is to use the brain (some police officers still have one of these) and remember a stranger on the property could provoke the dog into barking, snarling, and yes, even attacking. This does not give the officer a free pass to shoot the dog before coming onto the property. Especially if the person living there hasn’t committed a felony.

      Police officers are also cautioned to use objective reasonableness based on the circumstances at the time they arrive on scene. This means an officer should think through a situation before it gets out of hand and act accordingly. If a dog is behind a fence and may pose a danger, it’s common sense not to open the fence. Too many dogs are killed and 20/20 hindsight used to try and explain their actions. Was deadly force REALLY necessary? Most times the answer is no.

      The Fourth Amendment has now been used in court to back up this logic. The family dog is now considered property, which cannot be seized without cause. It gives people rights against a search and seizure by police without probable cause. Since a large majority of these cases involve police being at the wrong address to start with, perhaps a good GPS system would also prevent many of these tragic shootings.

    • Billy Hunt

      FacebookTwitterPinterest LinkedinGoogle Plus
      March 1, 2013
      Law enforcement officers have now been warned in a trade publication not to shoot family dogs.

      James P. Gaffney recently wrote an article which appeared in the online magazine for police personnel called Law Enforcement Today. In his article he told police officers to expect a lawsuit should they wrongfully kill a family dog while performing their job as an officer. Mr. Gaffney is highly qualified in these matters, as he served with a metro-New York police department for over 25 years as a patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant and an executive officer. He also teaches university level criminal justice courses as an adjunct professor in the NYC area.

      Gaffney wrote that police officer’s need to realize that procedures within the law enforcement field change from time to time. What was acceptable behavior for an officer ten years ago may be considered entirely unethical in this period of time. This includes how the family dog is to be treated.

      More and more family dogs are living as a member of the family. No longer confined to chains or tethers, most dogs these days enjoy the luxury of living, eating and sleeping inside with family members. For those with fenced in yards, this is merely a way to confine family dogs as they take potty breaks. In the old days, the fence meant safety for the dog. Unfortunately, that has changed with the new breed of officer, supposedly serving the public, who has the attitude to shoot the dog first and ask questions later. The new status quo these days is when an officer kills a family dog, they have in effect robbed that family of the years left with what many dog owners consider another “child.”

      Police departments nationwide advise their officers to take whatever measures are necessary to keep themselves safe when facing down a dog. In most of the dog shootings that take place today, the officer involved is sorely lacking in both common sense and compassion. Whenever a dog is seen inside a fence, the first thing an officer should do is to use the brain (some police officers still have one of these) and remember a stranger on the property could provoke the dog into barking, snarling, and yes, even attacking. This does not give the officer a free pass to shoot the dog before coming onto the property. Especially if the person living there hasn’t committed a felony.

      Police officers are also cautioned to use objective reasonableness based on the circumstances at the time they arrive on scene. This means an officer should think through a situation before it gets out of hand and act accordingly. If a dog is behind a fence and may pose a danger, it’s common sense not to open the fence. Too many dogs are killed and 20/20 hindsight used to try and explain their actions. Was deadly force REALLY necessary? Most times the answer is no.

      The Fourth Amendment has now been used in court to back up this logic. The family dog is now considered property, which cannot be seized without cause. It gives people rights against a search and seizure by police without probable cause. Since a large majority of these cases involve police being at the wrong address to start with, perhaps a good GPS system would also prevent many of these tragic shootings

    • Billy Hunt

      Dogs Shot by Cops: Companion Animals and Law Enforcement
      When a police officer kills someone’s companion animal, it deeply affects the animal’s human family, as well as the officer, the neighborhood, and the community. This sad situation is all too common and ALDF fields many calls asking for advice. Unfortunately, there is rarely a clear path to justice.
      Let’s start with the law. Companion animals are treated by the courts as personal “property.” When an animal is harmed, a lawsuit must show damage to the owner. Incredibly, civil lawsuits must demonstrate violation of the owner’s constitutional rights (known as a Section 1983 case). In tort cases, damages may be measured by the “market value” or purchase price of the animal, regardless of the egregious harm done to the animals and the emotional damage done to their human companions.

      States including Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas and New York have demonstrated openness to cases that request relief beyond an animal’s market value. Emotional distress of the owner, loss of companionship, and intrinsic value may be considered in some cases. In Texas, the State Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case filed for “sentimental value” of a companion animal. Similarly, a Tennessee statute allows suits for emotional distress damages due to the wrongful death of a companion animal; Tennessee’s General Patton Act, as a result of the infamous Smoak’s case, mandates training in animal behavior for law enforcement officers.

    • Billy Hunt

      What to do when your companion animal has been injured or killed
      WRONGFUL DEATH OR INJURY OF
      AN ANIMAL

      ALDF Suggests: What to do when your
      companion animal has been injured or killed

      Incidents of animal abuse may be presented to the courts in two ways:

      Via criminal charges, which can result in jail time
      These charges are brought on behalf of the state (or city) by the local prosecutor.

      and/or

      Via civil suit, for the purposes of gaining monetary compensation
      These suits are brought by the citizen victim(s), who is often, but not necessarily, represented by a private attorney.

      If someone has
      injured or killed your animal companion, you may be entitled to damages–regardless
      of whether the animal was injured or killed on purpose or accidentally–so long
      as the conduct was at least negligent. When an animal is injured or killed, you
      are generally entitled to compensation for the “market value” of the animal,
      veterinary bills and possibly punitive damages, mental anguish, and loss of
      companionship. What compensation is available depends entirely on the facts and
      circumstances of each case, and differs significantly from state to state.

  • Trace

    There is NO WAY that an Officer who had a dog sent to attack them wouldn’t arrest them for assaulting an officer. Sounds like he knows he screwed up.

    • bob

      He still could be arrested… Why do people side with criminals these days??? You wonder why the police are so paranoid, everyone is siding with the losers…

      • sabastian

        My guess is because of police over reaction, abuse and police militarization. Many people no longer view police as their friendly neighborhood Andy and Barney.

      • Jessie Raines

        I side with the dog until the cops and prove otherwise via body cams. They lie to cover themselves, and more and more videos are surfacing during the murder of our pets to show different than what cops say. Until he can prove that this dog was indeed attacking via body cam or necropsy, I won’t believe a word they say.

  • dannielle

    why cant cops use pepper spray or I dont know what happens when you taz a dog but there should be some less lethal way of handling a dog

    • bob

      A violent attack on an officer is ground for an officer to shoot. Why would he use “less than lethal” and still risk being attacked? The bullet is 100% going to stop the threat. Case close…

      • Jessie Raines

        A “violent attack” … who says.. the police? Where are their body cams to prove it? it’s becoming more and more evident that they lie to cover themselves. I want proof of what they say.

    • Sadie

      Some dogs can become even more aggressive with the use of pepper spray. And if you taser a dog, depending on size and age, it will likely die. So then the question becomes: When protecting oneself from an animal attack is it more humane to shoot or electrocute the animal? The officer had to protect themselves from a life threatening situation. The family pet was used as a lethal weapon against a police officer. They should be upset with Mr. Rosa for putting their “child” in a life and death situation.

      • Jessie Raines

        Where was the dog shot in relation to the officer? Where is the officer’s body cam? Where was the dog shot? Why wasn’t the man jailed if he indeed sic’ed the dog on the officer? Officers lie. And until it can be proven by evidence that is reviewed by a third party, I won’t believe a word that the cops say. I’m on the side of the dog.

  • moni

    I see a lot of unjustified shootings lately done by our very own police force. But in this case its sadly justified, as dog owners you have a responsibility to your dog as well as to others. I’m saddened that this person sent their dog to attack a person, especially to an officer. The victim is the dog here, and I hope animal cruelty charges are coming soon to the owner (s).

  • dave

    i agree with about 90% of what all of you said so far. i just dont think the owners should use the dog as a weapon then expect anything different knowing that cops can shoot the dog for less. sounds like they really didnt love the dog that much to have thought things through. i mean imagine you replace the dog with a child, knowing the officer is less likely to shoot the child even then, just knowing your child may get hurt or treated roughly you dont do it, because you love your child, and dont want any harm to come to him or her, same with a dog. the amount of love you have is equal to your willingness to put it in harms way.

  • Richard Gray

    The police “feel” that the suspect told the dog to attack, but the police employee on the scene shot and killed the dog. Now, either the police know that the guy told the dog to attack, or the police employee shot the dog on a “feeling.” Swing a bat at a police employee, you go to jail without the police consulting their lawyer. This guy didn’t go to jail, the police are going to talk to their lawyer about it first. Sounds fishy.

  • Jessie Raines

    Where is the documentation from Animal control that states the dog was aggressive? And where are you body cams to prove that what you say is true. Where is your documentation that shows he has attacked the officers before? What training have you had in dealing with people’s pets? If he did it, there will be police charges. I’m so sick of the police using deadly first as first option. Police haven’t learned their lesson that they can’t use “it’s a pitbull” or “it charged me” as a cover all excuse anymore. The people are tired of it, and we aren’t going to stand for it.

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