A Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a pit bull from inches away as the dog charged at him, according to a statement released by the sheriff’s office Monday, April 18.
The dog’s owner, however, disagrees that her dog acted in a way that he deserved to die. Jacquie Lea Johnson, 37, says it’s the third time a sheriff’s deputy has shot and killed one of her pit bulls.
The latest chain of events started around 8 a.m. Thursday, when a woman called to report Chuck Wyatt, 40, allegedly beat her at a home in the 1800 block of Harksell Road. Deputies got a lead that Wyatt had been dropped off at Johnson’s house in the 1100 block of Birch Bay-Lynden Road.
Johnson knows Wyatt, but she hasn’t seen him a while, she said, and she didn’t see him Thursday morning. She was just waking up, having cereal in her shorts, after letting the pit bulls — Kane, 4, and Jackson — into the yard to do their business around 8:20 a.m. Kane was noisily playing with a rock in the backyard, pushing it around with his nose like a soccer ball, Johnson said. Another tenant, Toby Carlson, was watching the dogs.
“By the time I could even say, ‘Oh no,’ I could hear Toby yelling for the dogs,” Johnson said.
Two sheriff’s deputies, Steve Harris and Bill Roosma, had parked their patrol cars at the top of the driveway and walked onto the property. They heard growling in the backyard, according to the sheriff’s office.
“They should've just come down with their damn cars, instead of trying to sneak in,” Carlson said.
According to the sheriff’s office, Harris called out to Carlson by the suspect’s name, Chuck, and Carlson turned to the deputy — even though that’s not his name. Then the barking dogs ran at the deputy.
“The male with the dogs did not call the dogs off nor attempt to control them,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Carlson claims that’s not true. He was telling Kane and Jackson to be easy, he said. And he was walking as fast he could to secure the dogs, he said, but he is disabled from past car crashes. Court records confirm he suffered serious injuries in crashes.
Harris brought out his Taser but did not fire. Kane jumped onto Harris, pawing at him. According to the sheriff’s office, the dog bit Harris’ holster and duty belt, and left scuff marks. The deputy warned Carlson the dogs could be shot if he didn’t get them under control.
Roosma, fearing that Harris might get hurt, called from the other side of the yard. The dogs ran toward him. The deputies’ account states Roosma side-stepped the lunging pit bull, but then the dog spun around and came back at the deputy.
Roosma fired one shot from his Glock sidearm. Kane was struck below the jaw.
Carlson and his girlfriend rushed the dog to Kulshan Veterinary Hospital, a 5 ½-mile drive to Lynden, performing CPR on the way. Kane died at the vet.
There's no reason to pull a firearm. (The dogs) were just doing their job, barking, trying to scare them out of the yard.
Resident Toby Carlson
Roosma joined the sheriff’s office in 2004. Steve Harris has been a deputy since 1998.
So far the evidence suggests the deputies were justified in using deadly force, said Undersheriff Jeff Parks. The angle and location of the bullet wound confirmed the dog attacked Roosma, he added.
“There's no reason to pull a firearm. (The dogs) were just doing their job, barking, trying to scare them out of the yard,” Carlson said. “We shouldn't have had a dog in the backyard, I guess.”
He said Kane was being protective of the home, but that the dog wouldn’t bite the deputy.
Back in 2007, two pit bulls were shot by another Whatcom County deputy as Johnson was being arrested for a warrant. She’d been charged with drug delivery a few months earlier. Police knocked on her door around Memorial Day when she was in the bathroom, she said. Someone else opened the door, and the deputy was met by two 1-year-old pit bulls named Kina and Shady.
Both were shot and killed by a deputy, Johnson said. Shady was Wyatt’s former dog.
Wyatt remains at large. Johnson said after the shooting last week he called her to say he was sorry about Kane being shot. But according to Johnson, he told her he hadn’t gone to her house on Thursday morning.
Deputies have probable cause to arrest Wyatt on suspicion of assault in the fourth degree and interfering with a report of domestic violence.
Sheriff’s deputies forwarded a report about the dog incident to the prosecutor’s office. Possible charges of violating the state’s dangerous dog law could be brought against the owners, according to the sheriff’s office.
Johnson says she’s furious about that, and that it was the deputies who made mistakes.
“I feel like I’ve been robbed,” Johnson said. “Basically I consider my dog like my kid.”