GRPD Chief: Shooting “Necessary” To Stop Pitbull

Posted at 6:59 PM, Feb 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-28 20:12:11-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk says two officers were justified when they shot and killed a pitbull running towards them during an altercation on Rose Street Tuesday night.

Police had followed a teenager back to the home at 106 Rose Street after a complaint that he and another boy had been throwing snowballs at cars.

Belk says the two officers fired 12 shots at the pitbull – four from one officer, eight from the other. The dog’s family says 11 of those hit their dog.

FOX 17 asked Belk if he felt 12 shots was excessive.

“The officers are trained to fire until the threat is eliminated or is reduced,” he said Thursday.

“Does it sound a bit excessive? I guess on the surface, it would seem that way, but the officers felt it was necessary to eliminate what I feel was a very real and dangerous threat.”

Police say an officer asked two men outside the home if there was a teenager inside that had been throwing snowballs. One of the men – 32-year-old James Lawrence – lived at the home with his girlfriend and her children and told the officer he would go inside to check.

“The officer said, ‘Well, I’ll go ahead and knock at the door,’ Belk says. “So the officer went to the door, began to knock when the individual got out of the car, came up to the house, and pushed the officer aside and went to go in the house.”

Police say an altercation broke out between the officer, Lawrence, and Lawrence’s brother. At some point, the pitbull broke out of its cage and bit all three.

Belk says the officer fled outside and jumped into a trailer in a neighbor’s driveway to get away from the dog. Lawrence wandered back out, where two officers had responded. Eventually, the pitbull walked through the open back door. Belk says when the dog started to come after Lawrence again, he told it to “go get” the officers.

As the dog ran towards the officers, they opened fire.

Lawrence is in Kent County Jail on a charge of assaulting a police officer. He’s being held on $10,000 bond. He has two prior felony drug charges and a bench warrant for driving with a suspended license.

Lawrence won’t face any charges regarding the pitbull. Belk says no one could have controlled or commanded the dog during the incident.

Animal Control records show the pitbull – named Chewey – had one bite complaint against it in August 2012. Jessica Howard owns the dog and says Chewey had bit her out of fear when she screamed after finding a bat flying inside the house.

Howard says she’s looking into pressing charges against the officers for their use of force.

“His home was invaded and he was protecting his family,” she says. “And he had to get shot for that. It’s not fair.”

The two teenagers won’t face any charges of property damage stemming from the snowballs.