Man who watched police shoot his dog sues city of Hawthorne

Leon Rosby embraces his son, Joshua, 12, as they pray during a protest at the Hawthorne Police Department on July 6, 2013. Rosby's Rottweiler was shot and killed by officers.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

A man who watched as his dog was shot and killed during a confrontation with Hawthorne police has filed a civil-rights suit against the city and three police officers.

Leon Rosby alleges the June 2013 incident was part of a “pattern of harassing conduct” carried out by Hawthorne police after he complained about alleged corruption within the department.

According to the suit, the officers’ conduct was “directed at Mr. Rosby and was intended to intimidate and harm him and to cause psychological trauma” by forcing him to watch his dog being killed.


Rosby pulled up to the scene of a police standoff at the corner of 137th Street and Jefferson Avenue and began filming the police with his cellphone in one hand and his dog’s leash in the other.

As three officers approached him, Rosby placed his 2-year-old Rottweiler, Max, in his car.

But as officers cuffed Rosby, the dog escaped through an open window and began to bark and lunge at officers. One officer tried to grab the dog’s leash, then drew his gun and fired four shots, killing Max.

Video of the incident went viral on YouTube, prompting a public outcry and drawing protesters to the Police Department headquarters.

Hawthorne police were the target of protests and threats after the incident, and email traffic overwhelmed the Hawthorne’s website, forcing it to cancel a City Council meeting.

The suit calls the officer’s conduct “extreme and outrageous, and beyond the bounds of decency,” adding that Rosby suffered “severe emotional distress.”

“It was devastating,” Rosby told The Times after the shooting. “His love for me was so extraordinary that he actually died for me.”

Afterward, Hawthorne police released a second video from another witness at the scene, showing some of the officer’s actions before the shooting occurred.

According to the lawsuit, officers then filed false police reports, alleging that Rosby had been the aggressor in the confrontation and had intimidated witnesses on scene.

Prosecutors and police also alleged Rosby went to the home of the witness who provided the second video, verbally confronting her and her son.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office subsequently charged Rosby with six felony counts, including intimidating a witness, dissuading a witness from prosecuting a crime and making criminal threats, as well as a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.

Mark Geragos, an attorney for Rosby, called the shooting and subsequent charges the “height of police misconduct.”

The Hawthorne city attorney and Hawthorne Police Department declined to comment.

Rosby is due in court for a preliminary hearing on those charges March 14.

Twitter: @cmaiduc