Ex-Fire Official Who Beat Dog Ordered to Stand Trial

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A now-retired Los Angeles County assistant fire chief accused of pummeling a neighbor's dog, which later had to be euthanized, was ordered Friday to stand trial on felony animal cruelty charges.

    "There's lots of conflicting evidence here, still questions that need to be answered," said Riverside County Superior Court Judge Craig Riemer. "But the court does find there is sufficient cause to believe the acts alleged could have been committed."

    Glynn Demon Johnson, 54, faces charges of felony animal cruelty and using a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony in connection with the beating of Karley, a 6-month-old German shepherd mix, last Nov. 3.

    The defendant is scheduled to return to court May 15 for arraignment. He remains free on $10,000 bail.

    The prosecution has suggested Johnson was at odds with his neighbors over their dogs barking and running loose on his property. The defendant, however, has characterized relations with his neighbors as good.

    He testified he was trying to walk the dog home after she had gotten loose, and was attacked by the canine, forcing him to strike her several times to pry loose a vice grip on his thumb.

    Deputy District Attorney Will Robinson spent nearly an hour Friday questioning Johnson about what the former firefighter told a sheriff's deputy the day of his encounter with Karley, and what the witness now says happened.

    Johnson testified this week that he was at home, in the 17000 block of Armintrout Drive in Woodcrest, a community south of Riverside, and saw Karley run through his yard to the residence of his neighbor, Travis Staggs.

    Johnson said Staggs caught Karley and was about to take the 45-pound animal home when the defendant offered to do it himself to spare Staggs the trip.

    The former firefighter, who was still on active duty at that time, said he got halfway across his yard, leading the dog by the collar with his left hand, when the animal abruptly whipped around and, for no apparent reason, bit his left forearm.

    Johnson testified that he dropped to his knees, and the animal clamped down on his right thumb. He said he struck the dog with his fist two or three times, and when the animal didn't let go, he grabbed a rock with his free hand and struck her several more times.

    "I tried to defend myself," the witness said.

    Robinson compared Johnson's testimony to what the defendant originally told a sheriff's deputy hours after the incident, while he was at a hospital having his cut and fractured right thumb mended.

    The prosecutor reminded Johnson that he first told investigators the dog bit his right thumb before anything else.

    "Isn't it true you told the police a different version of events than what you've testified to?" Robinson asked.

    "Yes," the witness acknowledged.

    "Then which version of events is true? Which one are you lying about?" Robinson persisted.

    Defense attorney John Sweeney rose to his feet.

    "To insinuate my client is a liar just to show off in court is very unprofessional," Sweeney protested.

    Riemer agreed, telling Robinson, "Don't go there."

    "Pretend there is no audience behind you, and I'm the only one here, Mr. Robinson," the judge cautioned.

    Staggs told sheriff's investigators he witnessed Johnson striking the dog with his fist, possibly a dozen times. The witness said he did not see Karley bite the defendant prior to Johnson's flurry of strikes.

    According to Staggs, Johnson grabbed a rock and hit the dog on the head 10 to 12 times, then tried to pry its jaws open. The witness said he ran over and tried to stop Johnson, but was pushed away.

    Robinson asked Johnson on Friday whether the defendant recalled hearing Staggs yelling, "Stop, Glynn, stop!"

    Johnson said he had a vague recollection of his neighbor yelling, but added, "I don't think Travis saw clearly what happened."

    Robinson wondered why, if the defendant was the one being attacked, he told investigators that Karley was "fighting for her life."

    "I think you're taking it out of context," Johnson replied. "I meant the dog was fighting violently and viciously, and I was fighting for my life, too."

    The witness said that when the dog went limp, "playing dead," he felt safe enough to stop striking her.

    The canine's owners, Jeff and Shelly Toole, found the animal hiding on their property a short time later and took her to a veterinarian, who recommended that she be euthanized, to which the Tooles consented.

    The prosecution asked Johnson about accusations he had shot pellets at dogs that wandered onto his property and used a bull horn to complain about barking dogs in his neighborhood -- all of which Johnson denied.