CRIME
06/23/2017 05:54 am ET Updated Jun 23, 2017

California Deputies Open Fire On Aggressive Dog, Kill Teen Instead

Sheriff's officials called the shooting an "extremely unfortunate incident."

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies say they accidentally shot and killed a teenager while trying to ward off a dog that had bitten a deputy in Palmdale, California, early Thursday.

Officials said a ricocheting bullet hit the teen after deputies opened fire on the aggressive dog, according to an incident report that the sheriff’s department released.

Friends and family members later identified the victim as 17-year-old Armando Garcia-Muro who was entering his senior year of high school, according to the Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed. 

The deputies were responding to reports of loud music when they arrived at the Palmdale apartment complex at 3:47 a.m. on Thursday. As the deputies approached the building, a dog that officials described as a “60 to 65 pound pit bull,” “aggressively charged” at the deputies, biting one of them in the left knee.

Garcia-Muro reportedly appeared from behind the apartment complex and restrained the dog, taking it to the rear end of the building. Deputies retreated back to the street where they waited for paramedics.

While the deputies waited, the dog became loose and charged at the deputies a second time. As the dog approached, deputies said they shot at it from a distance of 5 to 7 feet.

When deputies returned to the building to restrain the dog, they found Garcia- Muro on the ground in the carport area. He had a gunshot wound to the chest. Garcia-Muro was transported to a local hospital after the shooting, where he died of his injuries.

“He may have been struck by one of the skip rounds in what we’re calling an extremely, extremely unfortunate incident,” sheriff’s Capt. Christopher Bergner said at a news conference following the shooting.

“Our initial impression was [the deputies] didn’t even see the individual coming around from the side of the building.”

Five deputies were present during the incident, but only two opened fire, discharging six to eight rounds, according to Bergner. 

The deputy whom the dog had bitten was also hit by a stray bullet. A local hospital listed his condition as stable Thursday afternoon. Sheriff’s officials said the dog had to be euthanized because of its condition.

Nick Perez, a friend of the victim, told ABC 7 that Garcia-Muro was “trying to stop the dog from attacking the cops.” Residents who live near the apartment complex said that many people in the neighborhood own pit bulls, the news station also reported.

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department use-of-force policy permits deputies to shoot at animals if they “reasonably believe” that the creatures are about to “cause death or serious physical injury.” The policy also notes that shooting animals who do not appear to be a threat has proved to be “inherently dangerous to bystanders and personnel.”

Garcia-Muro’s mom, Roberta Alcantar, told ABC 7 that her son had plans to go to college and help his brother.

“He wanted to change his little brother’s life around,” Alcantar told the news station. “He wanted to go to school, college and better himself. He said he was done with his past life.”

The victim’s ex-girlfriend and friend Genevie Escobar told BuzzFeed News that Garcia-Muro had “started out bad” but had recently moved home and was looking for a job to support his family.

The department’s homicide detectives are actively investigating the shooting. Bergener said on Thursday that deputies who fire a weapon while on duty are automatically put on temporary desk duty while the incident is under investigation.

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