LAPD probes whether violent heist of Lady Gaga’s dogs was targeted attack
A violent Hollywood street heist of two French bulldogs attracted international intrigue Thursday after it was revealed the two purebreds belonged to global megastar Lady Gaga, with fans and the Los Angeles police wondering if the animals were targeted because of their doting owner’s deep pockets.
Most alarming for the police and many others, including true-crime enthusiasts eager for a new mystery to mull, was the ruthlessness with which the robbery occurred — with Gaga’s dog walker Ryan Fischer shot in the chest as he fought to keep the animals, and then left bleeding on the sidewalk as the thieves made off with two of the three dogs in his care.
Video from the scene, captured by a neighbor’s porch camera and published by TMZ, showed the struggle, with two assailants pulling up in a white Nissan Altima, leaping out and immediately going for the dogs as Fischer screamed, first in protest and then in agony.
“It was just a horrific thing,” said one of the neighbors, who asked not to be identified. “We just hope he’s OK. Just hearing his screams was awful.”
The incident, which occurred about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday in the 1500 block of Sierra Bonita Avenue in Hollywood, caught the attention of the world, particularly after Gaga’s camp offered a $500,000 reward for the return of the dogs — “no questions asked” — even as Fischer was still being treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Thefts of purebred animals, which can fetch high prices even when they aren’t attached to pop royalty, are not unheard of. And the LAPD in recent weeks has expressed concern about criminals in the city becoming more brazen about street robberies — which have been ticking up with the easing of pandemic-related lockdowns, including in the same general area as the dog heist.
Earlier this month, LAPD Chief Michel Moore highlighted a string of Wilshire street robberies where individuals were robbing people of Rolex watches. In a Jan. 30 incident also caught on camera, two attackers also jumped out of a white sedan near Melrose Avenue and North Vista Street — about a mile south in a straight line from where the dog heist occurred — and tackled a man before stealing his watch.
“That’s an image I haven’t seen in 20 years,” Moore said in lamenting the robbery to local media.
LAPD Capt. Jonathan Tippet, who heads the Robbery-Homicide Division investigating the dog heist, said that police did not have any suspects as of Thursday afternoon.
He said they were looking into whether the assailants knew the dogs belonged to the singer when they targeted them, but did not have any specific evidence to prove that was the case. Tippet said police were in contact with representatives for Lady Gaga, who were cooperating with the investigation.
An LAPD summary of the attack, described to The Times by a source who requested anonymity, indicated that the animals were the target of the robbers, one of whom said “give it up” as he pointed a handgun at Fischer.
Gaga’s dogs Gustavo and Koji were taken. A third dog escaped capture, ran to Fischer as the car drove off, and is now back with caretakers for Gaga, who TMZ reported is in Rome filming a movie and who recently performed on the national stage during President Biden’s inauguration.
Police sources said the pedigree and associated value of the animals could have been the basis for the robbery, but the level of violence used adds to their speculation that the attackers knew there could be a star-powered windfall associated with their return.
Tippet declined to comment on the reward being offered by the singer’s camp. But such offerings can be a blessing and a curse for investigators.
Rewards are sometimes offered by law enforcement and affiliated groups like Metro Crime Stoppers in serious crimes such as shootings, but usually in an effort to identify the attackers and bring them to justice — not for the return of stolen property.
They can result in an uptick in tips and other useful information for police, but can also bring about a deluge of false leads and misinformation. The scope of misinformation can depend on the notoriety of the case in question. In this instance, it could be huge.
The neighbor who heard the attack occur and later watched video of it said it all “felt super targeted” to him. Regardless, it was extremely sad, he said, noting how hard Fischer had fought to keep the dogs safe.
“He was really protective.”
Los Angeles has seen gun crime rise to alarming levels since the start of the pandemic, with more shootings and homicides occurring in the city than at any other time in the past decade. Through Feb. 13, shootings were up nearly 145% compared to last year, and more than 163% compared to 2019.
Robberies, in contrast, were down 15% compared to 2020 and more than 21% compared to 2019. However, police say they’ve been picking up recently.
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