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from The San Francisco Chronicle

    S.F. Police Shoot Pit Bull

S.F. Officers Fire 30 Bullets To Kill Pit Bull
Woman bitten trying to end fight

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Two San Francisco police officers fired about 30 shots to kill a pit bull in the Oceanview District yesterday after a woman was bitten trying to separate him from her family's Akita as the two dogs fought.

Police said the officers shot the pit bull when it lunged at one of them -- an assertion some neighbors supported -- but the dog's owner and other neighbors said the shooting was a panic-driven, unnecessary action that occurred after the dog fight was over and the canine posed no real threat.

The episode on Victoria Street, near the city's southwest border, began about 9:30 a.m. when Tam Phan, 31, left home with her Akita -- a breed of dog that looks somewhat like a German Shepherd -- on a leash.

Police Sgt. Herman Fruchtenicht, of Taraval Station, said a 1-year-old pit bull named "T.Y." -- usually chained in his owner's small dirt backyard a few doors away -- was wandering by unleashed and attacked the Akita.

Police said Phan's mother-in-law, Auh Tu Chung, 70, was bitten as she attempted to separate the dogs. She was later treated at a local hospital for "superficial lacerations on the right forearm," police said.

In the fracas, the pit bull bit the Akita on its left rear leg and the dog was getting treatment for that injury, police said.

At the time the pit bull was slain, the dog fight was over. The women had retreated behind a metal fence that covers their front doorway, and the Akita was lying in the doorway behind the fence, witnesses said.

Tyson Williams, the pit bull's 20-year-old owner, who did not witness T.Y. 's death, said his pet should not have been killed.

With tears welling up in his eyes, Williams said he bought his dog as a puppy from a friend and was raising it to make some money through breeding. He added T.Y. -- whose initials stood for nothing in particular -- had never been in a fight before.

"The woman only got bit because she put her hand between two dogs fighting, " he said.

"I didn't raise him to be aggressive," he said. "I have too many nephews in the house to raise him that way -- they're 3, 1 and 3 months. The police used too much unnecessary force -- they get paid not to panic."

Fruchtenicht said he did not think that the Jan. 26 dog mauling death of Diane Whipple in Pacific Heights -- which involved two Presa Canario dogs -- prompted the officers, Jerry King and Christopher Woon, to overreact when they fired their .40-caliber Berettas at the dog. They had been summoned by a neighbor.

Officer King felt the dog was going to attack him, Fruchtenicht said. "You don't want them to bite you. Neighbors had tried to stop the dog -- one hit it with her purse and another with a fire poker -- to no effect."

The police account of the event was supported by Cassandra Pouget, 41, a neighbor who described herself as a lover of all dogs, including pit bulls.

She said: "The dog was wild, out of control. It looked at police with hatred in his eyes. The officer had to shoot him."

But other neighbors gave a sharply differing account.

King "was pointing his finger at the dog -- it was funny, like something out of a dream at first," said Phillip Wiley, 37, who said he first happened on the scene when the dogs were fighting.

Once the fight was over, Wiley said "the dog was friendly, it was wagging its tail. He just wanted to be petted. But the officer was scared -- he pulled out his gun and started firing at him." After King shot the dog once at close range, the pit bull reacted angrily "and the officer was running away, shooting all over the place," Wiley said.

He added the dog was already dead when Officer Woon drove up, jumped out of his car "and fired maybe 14 times at it."

After the commotion surrounding the shooting was over, the pit bull's body was taken away by animal control officers. A fire truck pulled up, washed the dog's blood off the street and drove away. The family that owns the Akita declined to comment on the incident.

Sgt. Fruchtenicht said quite a few people in the neighborhood own pit bulls "and most are well behaved." He said an autopsy will be conducted on T.Y. by the city's animal control staff.

"The Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World" says the Akita was developed centuries ago in Japan as a fighting dog and it describes the canine as one that "will defend its territory against all intruders."

The atlas mentions the pit bull's use in dog fighting, observes the breed has been the victim of a witch hunt in recent years and notes: "Not all pit bulls are bad, but they are strong, and when tested, they do attack with a bone-crushing, mutilating bite. They are too much dog for the average owner and should only be purchased by people who are willing and strong enough to channel that power into productive areas."

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

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