Okeechobee, FL — Monday night, Larry Massey — likely warned by his service dog — pulled over to the side of the road before going into a seizure. When Massey would come to after losing consciousness, his service dog Butch would be dead — shot and killed by an Okeechobee police officer.
According to police, they received a call around 11:59 p.m. on Monday. The caller stated there was an unconscious man in his car on the side of the road. When the two officers, identified by the city only as Rojas and Daigneault, responded to the vehicle, they found Massey inside in the midst of a seizure along with his service dog.
Police claimed to be familiar with his medical condition, and when they arrived, they said they attempted to revive Massey with a sternal rub. For those not familiar, this procedure involves rubbing your knuckles to the patient's sternum to inflict pain to see how unconscious the patient is.
As the officer rubbed Massey's sternum, they say his service dog Butch attacked them. Police say the service dog originally bit at the officer's pant leg before being kicked away. Police then claim that the dog then grabbed the officer's arm and came back a third time, at with point the officer shot him. No attempt to taser or pepper spray the dog was made prior to shooting it.
There has been no report that the officer was injured.
While the officers claim the dog was aggressive, Massey says they misunderstood what was happening because Massey was having a seizure.
As WPTV reports:
Police said Daigneault pushed the dog away with his foot, but the dog lunged at Daigneault again, grabbing the officer’s arm.
Daigneault pushed the dog away a second time, but the dog lunged at Daigneault's face. Police said Daigneault then shot the dog once to protect himself and others.
"This is an unfortunate situation because the officer was doing what he's trained to do, protecting himself and other people," said Okeechobee Police Chief Robert Peterson in an exclusive interview with WPTV on Tuesday.
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Peterson said officers have a long history with Massey and knew he suffered from seizures. However, he said they couldn't explain why the dog attacked.
"You really feel for the dog, and the dog's owner, and the officer," said Chief Peterson.
Peterson went on to say he didn't believe the dog was formally trained as a service dog but noted that this does not matter.
"It was a service dog to that individual," said Chief Peterson. "He does have seizures, and he felt the dog was helpful to him and provided him support. So as far as we're concerned, for him it was a service dog."
According to chief Peterson, the officer is on administrative leave — which is standard procedure when a weapon is fired — but he is entirely justified in the shooting. The chief said multiple witnesses backed up the officer's story of the dog attacking.
"We have independent witnesses that actually saw the dog attack the officer, and the officer didn't shoot the dog until it made its third attempt at biting him," said Chief Peterson. "So unless something else comes up in the investigation, where we stand now, the officer acted appropriately."
While the chief may feel that shooting the dog was justified, anyone else responding to that scene, who is not a cop, would not have had that choice. If an EMT would have responded to the scene, they would have been forced to resolve the situation without shooting the dog. The same goes for bystanders.
How is it that countless UPS, FedEx, postal workers, pizza delivery workers, and others are able to successfully navigate their daily routines without killing the millions of dogs they come in contact with but police are so quick to shoot?