A 7-year-old pit bull-boxer mix shot by a San Luis Obispo police officer on Thursday has died.
Riley Manford, 27, said the dog, Bubbs, she cared for with her boyfriend, Nick Regalia, 33, in their rental home on the 600 block of Santa Rosa Street, died at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Atascadero Pet Hospital.
The officer, identified by the city as Joshua Walsh, fired three times at the animal, striking him twice, while he was investigating a report of a potential burglary at the house, where a window was broken, Manford said.
The bullets went through the dog’s side and chest and injured his back leg, as well. Bubbs suffered internal bleeding, ultimately leading to the medical decision to call off efforts to save him, said Manford, who broke down in tears multiple times while talking with The Tribune about the incident.
The dog first was taken to a clinic in San Luis Obispo before being moved to the Atascadero facility.
“I’m kind of shocked still,” Manford said. “It was really hard. This is the first time I’ve ever had an animal die before its time. It shouldn’t have happened.”
Regalia, a food truck operator who said he works nights and lives “paycheck to paycheck,” was sleeping when the incident happened after 11 a.m. Regalia said he is now stuck with a veterinary bill of around $8,000, and he wants the SLO Police Department to be held accountable.
He said he awoke to see a large group officers outside his home and said it should have been clear to them that he and his girlfriend weren’t burglars. The Police Department is located a block away, and it’s visible from their home.
“I watched my dog die in my arms,” Regalia said. “The SLO Police Department seems to have no accountability when it comes to gun safety. I will make sure they’re held accountable so this doesn’t happen again.”
Regalia said he plans to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit against the city.
SLO police captain said dog was charging at officer
But SLO Police Capt. Jeff Smith said the “dog was charging at the officer when he shot him.”
“I know that Officer Walsh was giving the owner commands, saying to ‘control your dog’ and ‘get it on the leash” when at some point the dog turned towards Josh and charged,” Smith said.
Smith said the dog was “not very far away” when the shots were fired, but he didn’t want to estimate the distance in feet.
Smith told The Tribune Thursday that police went to the home after receiving reports of a possible burglary, with a caller saying that someone had jumped out of a broken window.
Smith said Walsh is currently on scheduled days off, and that a city post-incident review will be conducted, as it is when any officer fires a gun.
The review will include looking at the body camera footage, talking to the parties involved and assessing how the actions were carried out in consistency with city policy.
“As an officer, if you believe the animal is an immediate threat, officers can use a service weapon to avoid injury to themselves or other people,” Smith said. “The concern is for safety.”
Dog owner contradicts SLO police account of incident
But Manford told The Tribune her dog didn’t charge at Walsh.
Manford, who works for AGP Video, said she came out of the home to speak with the two responding officers, Walsh and Larry Edwards. Manford said she spoke with Edwards, telling him she lived at the property.
She said she told the officers no burglary was in progress.
“One of them (Edwards) was listening to me,” Manford said. “The officer who had the gun drawn (Walsh), I don’t think he was listening to me at all. I told him to f------ stand down.”
Manford said her dog was in the driveway barking loudly about 4 feet away away from her; the police officer was another 4 feet away from Bubbs, placing the dog between her and the officer.
“He told me to get my dog, but I also didn’t want to get shot,” Manford said.
Manford said that the animal never lunged at the officer. She said the officer didn’t need to fire, and she was about to reach down to grab the dog.
“His gun shouldn’t have been drawn at all,” Manford said.
SLO police to review incident, owners say dog was friendly
Police spoke to witnesses and parties involved to determine if a burglary or another crime was in progress at the time, Smith said.
“Right now, it doesn’t appear there was anything criminal happening as far as a burglary,” Smith said Thursday, adding that officers will now document everything that took place up to the dog being shot.
“We don’t show up to calls with the intent to kill dogs,” Smith said. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance, and we’ll look into the totality of what took place regarding the related call and the dog being loose and running after one of our officers.”
Smith said a police officer has options in terms of how to assess the situation, but it can be an extremely quick decision and the first priority is “protection of yourself and others.”
Manford said the dog could sound scary, but she and Regalia have never had a problem with him hurting anyone before.
“In our complex, he’d lie out in the sun and our neighbors would play with him,” Manford said. “Recently, two girls took selfies with him. We’d take him for bike rides and to the beach. He is beloved around our community.”
Manford and Regalia said they have spoken with multiple lawyers and are weighing options.
“There are people who live in this complex who could have been hurt by the bullets,” Regalia said. “There’s no way he should have been firing off rounds in a living area like this.”
City Attorney Christine Dietrick said the city will conduct an “post-incident review to ensure that it went the way it should have and according to police, and if not, what can be learned to improve our performance in the future.”
Dietrick said the timeline on the inquiry hasn’t been determined yet, but she expects the process to be efficient. Dietrick said the city feels “horribly that the dog has died.”
A GoFundMe account has been established to help Regalia and Manford pay for vet bills at https://www.gofundme.com/f/Bubsvetbills.