The Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed three felony charges Friday against a Postal Service mail carrier who allegedly shot and killed a dog in Arleta because the dog had bitten him earlier.
Floyd Bertran Sterling, 34, was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, using a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and cruelty to animals, with the special allegation that he used a firearm. He was not immediately arrested, police said.
Meanwhile, debate over the incident continued to build as residents of Sterling's postal route rallied to his defense, praising him as an excellent mail carrier and saying the dog was vicious and its owners had let the animal run loose.
Tammy Brody, 27, had told police that Sterling "freaked out" and shot her 2-year-old mixed-breed German shepherd, Skippy, just as Brody emerged from the house Tuesday to give the mail carrier a bottle of vodka as a Christmas present.
Brody said the dog was not menacing Sterling at the time, but the mailman told police afterward that the animal had bitten him earlier this year.
Felony charges were brought against Sterling because he was recently convicted of carrying a loaded firearm in a public place, and because he had also been convicted of misdemeanor spousal abuse in 1982, Deputy Dist. Atty. Myron Jenkins said.
If convicted on all counts, Sterling faces a maximum sentence of 5 years and 8 months in state prison, Jenkins said.
No records were available on Sterling's spousal abuse conviction. According to court documents, he was still on two years' probation after pleading no contest in San Fernando Municipal Court in December, 1988, to a charge of carrying a loaded .44 magnum revolver in his car on his way home from a firing range.
Beth Adams, 30, who lives near the Brody house, said she was "shocked" and "flabbergasted" that Sterling--who has been placed on leave by the Postal Service while federal authorities investigate--may go to prison.
Adams, who also has a German shepherd, called Sterling a "sweet, wonderful man," a "good Christian" and "gentle as a lamb." Other neighbors also praised Sterling as a dedicated mail carrier and a kind person, who often took time to chat with people on his route. Several, including Adams, said they had come to consider him a good friend.
Skippy, however, was known around the neighborhood as a "vicious dog," Adams said.
Vera Kuppers, who is in her 60s, blamed the Brodys for Skippy's death, saying that "people think that just because their dog loves them or is good to them, it's OK for them to run around at any time. But a dog can turn on a stranger any time."
Brody's sister, Debbie Roedel, 15, said that family members tried to keep Skippy at home but the dog had learned to unlatch the door of the house. She said he frequently ran toward people barking, but "that was his way of playing."
"Sometimes he would run towards little kids and bark, but his tail was always wagging," Debbie said.