Dog Shot by Police

Witness Meredith Wilterdink talks about an incident Wednesday during which city police shot and killed a dog in a downtown Lancaster parking lot.

A Lancaster city police officer shot and killed a loose dog in a downtown parking lot Wednesday afternoon.

The incident was witnessed by numerous bystanders, some of whom questioned the lethal tactics taken by police.

The animal barked and growled when approached but attacked no one, they said.

"To me — I felt like it was scared more than anything," said Randy Schamber, an employee of the Hager Parking Lot where the incident occurred around 4:30 p.m.

"I feel like (police) could've done more to catch the dog. I don't understand why they had to shoot it."

Police, however, said the animal was shot only after all other efforts had failed.

Officers tried placing a snare around the dog's neck and attempted to subdue the animal with a Taser. Both efforts failed and only seemed to make the animal more agitated, Sgt. Bill Hickey said Wednesday night.

"In that moment, the officer felt he wasn't able to control the situation and believed the dog to be a danger," Hickey added.

He declined to release the name of the officer, stating that an internal review will be conducted to determine if the use of force was justified.

Hickey said police responded to the West King Street lot for a report of a loose dog that had chased people and another dog.

Witnesses said the animal didn't go after anyone.

They said the white mastiff had jumped from the partially-covered bed of a pickup truck that was parked in the lot.

Schamber said the animal and another dog, which one witness said appeared to be a spaniel-type, had been in the back of the truck for at least a half-hour. He said the animals got his attention because the white dog would bark when people walked by the vehicle.

After jumping from the truck, the mastiff ran toward a man who had just gotten out of an SUV with his dog.

The mastiff ran up to the man's dog but didn't attack the animal, Schamber said.

The man, who lives nearby, scooped up his medium-sized dog and placed it back in his vehicle, inside a dog crate.

The mastiff then jumped in the back of the SUV as well.

"Not necessarily at (my dog), just jumped in the car — but if you tried to get close to him he'd growl. But I think by this time the dog is really confused," the resident, who asked that his name not be used, said.

"We tried to get him out of the car," said Schamber. "I keep dog treats in the booth so I ran over and got some to try to coax him out."

The dog jumped from the vehicle, only to bark and growl at the men.

That's when Schamber called police.

"The Fulton (Theater) was letting out and there were elderly people walking through the lot. (The dog) hadn't gone after anyone but I didn't want to risk the possibility," he said.

For the next several minutes, until police arrived, the animal went back and forth from his owner's truck to the resident's SUV.

"He couldn't get back in his own truck but it seemed like he wanted to," Schamber said. "He would keep walking over and looking up. Then he'd go over and jump in the back of the other car again."

The dog was in the back of the resident's SUV when police arrived.

"He's not scowling or growling but this one cop has a rifle and he's threatening to shoot that white dog next to (the resident's) dog in the back of the car," according to Meredith Wilterdink, who works at the nearby Carr's Restaurant.

The resident refused to allow the officer to fire, refusing the officer's command to move away from the car, Wilterdink said.

Police eventually placed the resident in handcuffs but he later was released with no charges filed.

The mastiff eventually jumped from the SUV at which time police unsuccessfully tried to subdue the animal with a Taser.

Moments later, according to Schamber, a shot rang out.

"The dog was running around yelping, and then a second shot," Schamber said as his eyes welled with tears.

"I don't understand why they had to shoot him; he didn't hurt anybody."

"He didn't need to be shot," the resident said adamantly. "What he needed was to be tethered and maybe tranquilized. But shot ... no."

Regarding the use of a tranquilizer gun, Hickey said he wasn't sure if city police still had one.

"In the past I believe we did. That said, it's something that's kept under lock and key. It's not something you grab and go in the heat of the moment."

He also said the department's dog law officer, who typically would've responded to Wednesday's incident, had gone off duty about 30 minutes prior to the incident.

"There were a lot of factors here — rush hour in downtown, a busy street, a public parking lot — that made for an unfortunate outcome," Hickey said. "We're dog owners too and nobody takes this sort of thing lightly.

"Yes, shooting the animal is an option but it's not the one any of us prefer. It's a last resort."

The owner of the deceased animal returned to his vehicle after the incident had concluded. Hickey said it didn't appear the man will face charges for leaving his dogs unattended in the truck.

An earlier version of this story misidentified the breed of the dog



Jennifer Todd is a Lancaster Newspapers police reporter. She can be reached at jtodd@lnpnews.com or (717) 481-6136. You can also follow @JenniferLTodd on Twitter.