A Los Angeles County assistant fire chief accused of beating a neighbor's 6-month-old puppy with a rock, cracking her skull and damaging her eye, said Monday that he acted in self-defense after the animal bit his thumb with what he called a "vise-like grip."
Speaking at a news conference at his attorney's office in Beverly Hills, Glynn Johnson, 54, said the top of his thumb had nearly been ripped off and had to be sutured back on because of the bite.
The dog "suddenly turned on me and severely bit me several times on my hands, my arms and my legs," Johnson said, sitting next to poster boards with enlarged images of his injuries. Photos showed a number of stitches around the top of his right thumb, across the fingernail. His thumb was covered in white bandages at the news conference.
"I'm sure anyone would've done the same," he said. "I have personally rescued many dogs from peril as a firefighter, and would never, ever harm a dog that posed no danger to me."
Johnson was arrested by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department last week and charged with one felony count of animal cruelty for beating the shepherd mix, Karley, who was euthanized because of her injuries. He was released on $10,000 bail.
Animal-rights activists had urged prosecutors to file criminal charges after the Nov. 3 incident, alleging that Johnson was receiving special treatment because of his position in the fire department. He is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of his criminal case, said his attorney, John Sweeney.
A neighbor who witnessed the incident told authorities Johnson used a rock to strike the dog on the head more than 10 times. A criminal complaint filed by the Riverside County district attorney's office said the rock weighed 12 pounds.
Karley was 21 inches long and 40 pounds at the time, said her owner, Jeffrey Toole. Her skull was cracked in three places, her nasal cavity and ear canal crushed, and she lost an eye, according to a veterinarian's report.
Sweeney said Johnson's actions were clearly in self-defense because the right-handed firefighter had used his left hand to beat the dog. His right hand was "being shredded" in the dog's mouth, he said, contending that Karley was not a small, defenseless puppy but a full-grown dog capable of such an attack.
The attorney also accused Riverside prosecutors of filing baseless charges because of political pressure. Sweeney said his client received several death threats after the case was widely publicized.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Chuck Hughes called Sweeney's allegations "absurd," saying his office considered neither public opinion nor Johnson's profession in deciding to file charges. He declined to discuss the details of the case.