HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Hawthorne Police Chief Robert Fager today condemned threats that have been aimed at officers, city employees and private residents in response to the police killing of a Rottweiler that was caught on tape and viewed nearly 3 million times online.
Fager insisted the department was conducting an investigation into the Sunday killing of “Max,” but he said emotional responses to the online video have led to wild accusations and threats.
“Unfortunately, in the midst of this social media response, fallacies are being perpetuated and outright criminal threats are being made,” Fager wrote in a letter “to all the members of our community.”
“In the public forum of various websites, department employees have been misidentified as the officer who shot,” he wrote. “This has led to criminal threats of harm directed not only at city employees, but also at similarly named public citizens who just happen to live and work in our surrounding region. This is intrinsically wrong in every way and unfairly detracts from the others who have professionally communicated with us.”
The chief claimed the shooting “is being addressed in the most appropriate manner demanded and afforded,” and said the department “will be accountable to its constituents and to our actions.”
He said the department “truly feels in the loss” of the dog.
“We, as a department, as animal owners ourselves, and the officer directly involved himself, all relate and empathize in this.”
The dog was killed by police around 5:45 p.m. Sunday at 137th Street and Jefferson Avenue, where officers were on the scene of a barricade situation.
According to police, the dog’s owner, Leon Rosby, pulled up to the scene and began taking pictures. Police determined he was interfering with the officers, who decided to arrest him, according to police.
The dog, which had been in the backseat of Rosby’s car, jumped out and began lunging at officers. One officer fired four shots at the dog, killing it.
A graphic video of the shooting was posted on YouTube, gaining national attention.
Criticism of the shooting has spilled beyond the department. Workers at a store called Swain’s Art Supplies in Glendale have even received threatening calls because the spokesman for the Hawthorne Police Department is Lt. Scott Swain.
Three police officers who can be seen in the video have been pulled from street duty in response to threats against them and their families, Swain told the Daily Breeze.
Video contains graphic scenes.
Hawthorne police shoot and kill Rottweiler