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Video of Hawthorne police killing dog sparks Web protests

Hawthorne police are receiving threats after a video goes viral showing an officer killing the 80-pound Rottweiler when it jumped out of a car and lunged at police while its owner was handcuffed.

July 02, 2013|By Matt Hamilton

Leon Rosby arrived at 137th Street and Jefferson Avenue in Hawthorne on Sunday evening to videotape a police standoff. He brought along his 2-year-old Rottweiler, Max.

He put the dog on a leash and began filming. Hawthorne police deemed Rosby's actions interference and placed him under arrest. By this point, Max was in the backseat of Rosby's car, but the arrest upset him. He began barking, jumped out of the car and lunged at officers.

One of the officers drew a gun and fired four times. Dozens of residents watched the shooting, with some shrieking and moaning. Handcuffed, Rosby looked away in horror.

The incident Sunday was caught on tape and went viral on the Internet this week, sparking outrage and even drawing threats directed at the Hawthorne Police Department.

Some community leaders are calling for an investigation into the officers' actions, and Rosby said he still can't believe what happened.

"I've never seen someone that close to me get killed like that," Rosby, 52, said in an interview.

Rosby, an ordained minister now working as a licensed contractor, said he was filming the crime scene to protect the civil rights of those under investigation by police. When officers questioned him, he said, he asserted his right to record.

Hawthorne police Lt. Scott Swain said in a statement that Rosby was walking too close to law enforcement officers with Max, who weighed 80 pounds. The music coming from his car added to the distraction, authorities said, and made a "dangerous situation" at the crime scene.

In an interview, Swain would not pass judgment on the shooting.

"I'm not saying it's justified, but even when it's justified, there are some learning points," he said. "Could we have done anything different? We'll look at all those facts."

In March, Rosby filed a lawsuit against the city of Hawthorne and several officers in the Police Department, alleging that he was assaulted and brutalized in a July 2012 incident. Rosby said he has also filed numerous complaints against individual officers.

One of the officers named in the lawsuit was at the crime scene Sunday night, according to police, but was not involved in Rosby's arrest or the shooting of his dog.

Rosby was released from custody Monday morning and, according to his attorney, no charges have been filed against him.

The Police Department has launched an internal inquiry that is standard whenever an officer discharges a firearm. The department will also forward evidence to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office for a separate investigation.

Rosby's arrest and the shooting of his dog have gained global interest online and generated outrage on social media.

The original video of the shooting has received more than 1 million views. Comments critical of Hawthorne's police officers, including some direct threats, are also flooding the department's Facebook page, phone lines and email accounts.

The department is investigating all "credible" threats and strengthening security, Swain said, although no details were provided.

matthew.hamilton@latimes.com

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