Crime

Second dog in fatal attack could be declared a ‘vicious animal’ and euthanized

Former Grover Beach police Officer Alex Geiger
Former Grover Beach police Officer Alex Geiger

The former Grover Beach police officer who owned the two dogs involved in a fatal attack last month has given up custody of his second dog, which could result in it being euthanized if San Luis Obispo County declares it a vicious animal.

The dog is one of two formerly owned by Alex Geiger that attacked 85-year-old Betty Long and 64-year-old David Fear on Dec. 13, resulting in Fear’s death three days later. Though Geiger’s Belgian Malinois was almost immediately determined by county Animal Services investigators to have been the primary aggressor in the attack and was euthanized the same day, the German shepherd was initially spared.

Geiger could face about four years in state prison if convicted of two felonies for failing to properly secure the animals, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. He is scheduled to enter a plea in two weeks.

On Wednesday, Animal Services Director Eric Anderson said he could not disclose specific findings of the investigation but that the German shepherd did participate in the attack.

“We knew (the Belgian Malinois) was primarily responsible, but the degree to which the other was involved wasn’t immediately clear,” Anderson said. “Through the investigative process we learned more about the exact degree it was actively involved.”

Following the attack, the German shepherd was placed under a standard quarantine and observation period of 10 days. The dog remained in confinement, however, pending the criminal investigation.

Anderson said Geiger has given up custody of the dog, which is being held under specific conditions by a private owner outside San Luis Obispo County. After the disposition of Geiger’s criminal case, the county will file a civil motion to have the German shepherd declared a vicious animal.

Should a Superior Court judge find that the dog meets the criteria, the judge could order the animal to be euthanized, or kept confined under specific practices as a lifelong condition for the new owner, Anderson said.

Geiger, 25, resigned from the Grover Beach Police Department on Feb. 1, a day before the District Attorney’s Office filed two felony counts of failing to maintain control of a dangerous animal. District Attorney Dan Dow previously said Geiger “failed to use ordinary care in keeping the animal,” which led to injury and death.

Dow said his office’s investigation did not uncover evidence of criminal negligence, a necessary component of a manslaughter charge. Officials have not disclosed how the dogs got loose.

The euthanized Belgian Malinois was a fully trained police dog formerly assigned as Geiger’s partner in the city of Exeter, where the dog performed patrol operations for about a year despite biting a trainer’s hand during an exercise. Officials have not released the background of the German shepherd.

An arrest warrant was issued for Geiger on Feb. 2, and he posted $20,000 bail through Great Dane Bail Bonds in Visalia one day later, according to court records. He was not physically booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Geiger is scheduled to appear at a San Luis Obispo Superior Court arraignment Feb. 21.

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1

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