Leon Rosby arrived at 137th Street and Jefferson Avenue in Hawthorne on Sunday evening to videotape a police standoff. He brought along his 2-year-old Rottweiler, Max.
He put the dog on a leash and began filming. Hawthorne police deemed Rosby’s actions interference and placed him under arrest. By this point, Max was in the back seat of Rosby’s car, but the arrest upset him. He began barking, jumped out of the car and lunged at officers.
One of the officers pulled out a gun and fired four times. Dozens of residents watched the shooting, with some shrieking and moaning. Handcuffed, Rosby looked away in horror.
The incident Sunday was caught on tape and went viral on the Internet this week, sparking outrage and even drawing threats directed at the Hawthorne Police Department.
Some community leaders are calling for an investigation into the officers’ actions, and Rosby said he still can’t believe what happened.
“I’ve never seen someone that close to me get killed like that,” Rosby, 52, said in an interview. “His love for me was so extraordinary that he actually died for me.”
Rosby, an ordained minister now working as a licensed contractor, says he was filming the crime scene in order to protect the civil rights of those under investigation by police. When officers questioned him, he says he asserted his right to record.
Hawthorne police Lt. Scott Swain said in a statement that Rosby was walking too close to law enforcement officers with Max, who weighs 80 pounds. The music coming from his car added to the distraction, said authorities, and made a “dangerous situation” at the crime scene. Others in the crowd were “at a safe distance” and “compliant” to officers’ requests, according to police.
In an interview, Swain would not pass judgment on the shooting itself.
“I’m not saying it’s justified, but even when it’s justified, there are some learning points,” he said. “Could we have done anything different? We’ll look at all those facts.”
In March, Rosby filed a lawsuit against the city of Hawthorne and several officers in the police department, alleging that he was assaulted and brutalized in a July 2012 incident. Rosby said he’s also filed numerous complaints against individual officers.
One of the officers named in the lawsuit was at the crime scene Sunday night, according to police, but was not involved in Rosby’s arrest or his dog’s shooting.
Rosby was released from custody Monday morning, and according to his attorney, no charges have been filed against him.
The police department has launched an internal inquiry that is standard any time an officer discharges a firearm. The department will also forward evidence to the L.A. County district attorney’s office for a separate investigation.
Rosby’s arrest and the shooting of his dog have gained global interest online and generated outrage on social media.
The original video of the shooting has received more than 1 million views. Comments critical of Hawthorne’s police officers, including some direct threats, are also flooding the department’s Facebook page, phone lines and email accounts.
The department is investigating all “credible” threats and buttressing security, said Swain, although no details were provided.
The Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable weighed in on the shooting, questioning whether officers used excessive force and calling for Hawthorne Mayor Danny Juarez to launch a fast-track investigation into the officers’ conduct.