In the wake of a shocking video that showed Hawthorne police officers fatally shooting a dog, the department has released a second video that it says exonerates the officers.
After the original cell phone video of the incident was posted to YouTube a week ago, the Southern California police department was bombarded with angry calls and emails, including death threats that prompted the department to take the three officers involved off street duty.
But the video below, taken on a cell phone by a second witness at the scene, shows more of the interactions the dog owner, Leon Rosby, had with police before the shooting. It also more clearly shows the officers' actions before shooting the dog, a large Rottweiler. In the video, the shooting officer reaches his hand toward the dog and hesitates before shooting it four times.WARNING: THE FOLLOWING VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT. This is the second video of the incident, sent to HuffPost from the Hawthorne police department:
"This video will help us tremendously regarding [Rosby's] actions prior to his arrest," said public information officer Lt. Scott Swain, who sent the video to The Huffington Post. "You can see the officer gives out his hand to let the dog sniff it and tries to grab the leash."
TO SEE THE ORIGINAL, VIRAL VIDEO, GO TO YOUTUBE.COM. WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND IMAGERY.
Many people have asked why the officer needed to shoot four times, accusing him of being "trigger-happy." However, Swain said that is the department's policy.
"We're not trained to shoot one shot or to shoot in the leg. You're always trained to shoot multiple shots," Swain said. "Firing a gun is a last resort. We're trained to eliminate the threat, and that's a judgment call on the officers."
However, Robert Helfend, a defense attorney in LA, questioned the officers' actions.
"Once the officers made the decision to detain Mr. Rosby, they seemed to have no plan in place regarding the handling of his dog. It would seem, in hindsight, that the officers could have simply let Mr. Rosby go temporarily to contain his animal," Helfend told HuffPost. "They then could have permitted Mr. Rosby to phone someone to pick up the dog. The so-called crime that Mr. Rosby supposedly committed was not life-threatening nor was he a danger to the community."
According to a police statement, Rosby was arrested for "interference with officers" because his "loud, distracting music (from the individual's vehicle) and his intentional walking within close proximity to armed officers, while holding an 80-pound Rottweiler on a long leash-line … created an increasingly dangerous situation and demanded officers' focus away from the matter at hand." (Click here for the department's full account of what happened.)
Some have questioned whether Rosby's arrest was lawful, saying he was exercising his right to free speech and to film police. "The Hawthorne Police Department is trying to take me to court for breaking my Civil Rights! It's so crazy that they are trying to charge me," Rosby himself said on his Facebook page.
Cameron Fredman, an attorney in LA who has worked on police shooting cases, said that the arrest could be lawful.
"There's been some reporting that the dog owner had been instructed to turn the music down because it was interfering with a police investigation and that he refused to comply," Fredman told HuffPost. "To the extent this is true, the police were likely justified in making an arrest."
In addition to thousands of angry emails and phone calls since the first video of the incident was posted, the Hawthorne police department was threatened by the online "hacktivist" group Anonymous in a video posted to YouTube on July 3.
"Police of Hawthorne, you must know that you are our primary target. This matter will not remain unresolved," a masked man in the animated video says. "We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us."
Swarmed by visitors from around the world, the department's web site crashed and will remain down "until things calm down," Swain told HuffPost on Monday.
About 100 people angered by the shooting staged a peaceful protest in front of the Hawthorne police headquarters Saturday, Swain said. A petition on Change.org calling for the prosecution of the police officers involved has close to 97,000 signatures.
Rosby remains critical of the officers' actions, but he has spoken out since the incident to discourage people from threatening the officers' lives.
Rosby's lawyer, Michael Gulden, told HuffPost that police were retaliating against Rosby for a lawsuit he filed against the department in March. That lawsuit alleges that excessive force was used when Hawthorne officers responded to a domestic violence call at Rosby's home in July 2012.
According to the lawsuit, Rosby's wife called police during a non-violent verbal disagreement because she wanted Rosby to leave the house for the night. When Rosby agreed to leave, she called back and said no action was needed.
However, when "an army of officers" arrived, they started beating Rosby, according to the lawsuit. The officers allegedly said that they recognized Rosby as the "troublemaker" who had previously made a complaint about the lack of African-American officers employed by the Hawthorne police department as well as a prior complaint alleging that the department had engaged in racial profiling against him in July 2011, the lawsuit says.
Gulden said that since Rosby filed his first complaint against the Hawthorne police in 2011, he has been targeted and pulled over four or five times for invalid reasons, including a false accusation of having a license plate that did not match his car.
But Swain said that on the day of the dog shooting, Rosby was the one targeting police. "It's clear from the video that Rosby inserted himself into the situation," he said.
Rosby is due in court for arraignment on Aug. 12 and, if convicted of interference with officers, faces six months to a year in county jail.
Swain said Hawthorne police officers do not go through dog training. "We'll have to see about that at the end of this investigation," he said. "It's something that we'll consider."