Trial Begins for Owner of Rottweiler Shot by Hawthorne Police

hawthorne police officers shoot dog

Millions of animal lovers around the world were outraged in 2013 after seeing the viral video of a Hawthorne, Calif., police officer shooting a Rottweiler as the dog’s owner, Leon Rosby, begged him not to.

The trial involving this case finally began yesterday — but it’s not the police officer who’s being tried. It’s Rosby, who’s charged with interfering with a police SWAT operation and intimidating a witness.

Rosby is being represented by Mark Geragos, whose name you may recognize from (in)famous cases involving Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Winona Ryder, Scott Peterson and many others. In August 2013, Geragos told the Los Angeles Time the charges against Rosby were “one of the biggest perversions of the criminal justice system” he’d ever seen.

In his opening statement yesterday, Geragos accused Hawthorne police officers of working against Rosby because they thought he would sue them, according to the Daily Breeze.

“All of that was created so they could divert attention from the fact the Hawthorne police committed an inexcusable act of executing a dog for no reason,” Geragos said.

Deputy District Attorney Keri Modder said in her opening statement that the death of Rosby’s dog was “an unfortunate consequence of Rosby’s actions.”

max dog shot by hawthorne police

As Rosby drove home from a dog park with Max, his 3-year-old Rottweiler, on June 30, 2013, he stopped to check out a police barricade situation. With Max on a leash and music blaring from his car, he walked over to make a cellphone video. According to the Hawthorne Police Department, he got too close and officers told him to leave.

Rosby returned to his car and put Max inside. When two officers following Rosby put him in handcuffs, Max leaped out of an open window and ran at the officers, barking at them. As Max jumped toward an officer, he was shot four times.

A few days after the first shocking video of the incident was posted on YouTube, another video surfaced, taken by a witness from a different angle. The Hawthorne Police Department said the second video proved the officer had good reason to shoot Max. Rosby is accused of intimidating witness Kathy Brown after she told police that Rosby had threatened the man who recorded the second video.

According to the Daily Breeze, Hawthorne police officers are expected to testify that Rosby and the loud music from his car interfered with them. Brown recanted her story about being intimidated by Rosby and did not want to testify, but earlier this week, Judge Lauren Weis Birnstein ordered her to be arrested and brought to court.

The video of Max being shot was not shown to jurors on the first day of the trial.

To avoid future incidents like this, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) offered the class “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement” to Hawthorne police officers last month. The course is available for all law enforcement officers in California.

“When an officer shoots a pet dog, it is traumatic for the officer, the animal and the community — something we want to mitigate as much as is possible,” spcaLA President Madeline Bernstein said in a press release. “Training materials on the market until now did not give officers the tools necessary to determine when and if force is necessary, how to correctly read dog behavior or how to diffuse a difficult situation involving family dogs.”

Here’s the original video of Max’s shooting, which has now been viewed more than 6.8 million times. It is very difficult to watch.

Here’s the other video, which shows the shooting from a different angle. It, too, is very difficult to watch.

Photos via YouTubeFacebook

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!