Hawthorne police fatally shot a dog in an incident recorded on video and posted on YouTube on Sunday, June 30, 2013. The dog's owner, Leon Rosby, pictured in custody, faces felony charges for an alleged confrontation with another witness to the shooting.
The owner of a Rottweiler who watched police shoot and kill his dog has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Hawthorne and three of its officers.
Leon Cordell Rosby, 53, is claiming the shooting of his dog was part of a "pattern of harassing conduct" and alleged corruption in the Hawthorne Police Department, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
Rosby alleged that the officers' decision to shoot his dog, Max, right in front of him was "intended to intimidate and harm him and to cause psychological trauma," according to the lawsuit.
The entire confrontation was caught on camera, and the graphic video of the dog's shooting went viral and garnered millions of views within just days of being online. The footage generated protests and media attention across the country.
The violent incident began on June 30, 2013, when the Rottweiler jumped from an open car window and lunged at officers who were taking Rosby into custody on suspicion of interfering with a SWAT stand-off.
Rosby was walking Max near 137th Street and Jefferson Avenue in Hawthorne and recording the stand-off with armed robbers on his cell phone camera.
"I never meant my dog to be killed and shot like that," Rosby said days after the shooting. "He wasn't just shot. He was executed."
The video, posted on YouTube (Warning: Disturbing Content), showed Rosby walking his dog along a sidewalk and recording officers on his cell phone. Another man who was also recording the police incident was standing just a few feet away from Rosby, but he was not approached by officers.
Police said he was playing "loud, distracting" music in his vehicle and walking in close proximity to the officers involved in a two-hour stand-off.
"This interference included loud, distracting music (from the individual's vehicle), and his intentional walking within close proximity to armed officers, while holding an 80-pound Rottweiler on a long leash-line," Hawthorne police said in a statement after the incident.
The officers handcuffed Rosby and the dog began barking out of one of the car's open windows. The dog jumped out and barked at the officers.
One of the officers reached toward the dog several times, apparently trying to grab its leash. The dog lunged at him and he fired four shots at the dog.
The dog fell to the ground, yelping and struggling in the street. The animal's owner, still handcuffed, cried out and his legs buckled.
The Hawthorne Police Department saw a major public backlash following the incident, with angry calls, emails and tweets pouring in, along with some threats, authorities said.
After the Hawthorne Police Department released a second video taken by a witness at the scene – showing more of the officer’s actions prior to the shooting – Rosby allegedly confronted the witness at her home.
Rosby was charged with six felony counts, including dissuading a witness from prosecuting a crime, intimidation of a witness and making criminal threats, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in August 2013.
Rosby pleaded not guilty and is due back in court for a preliminary hearing in March.