Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was posted as the Blade’s Lou Chibbaro Jr. received returned calls from sources he hadn’t heard from when he initially filed. The additions are in bold text. Subsequently some of the initial reader comments are addressed in the additions.
A gay D.C. police officer and a gay caretaker of a dog named Parrot have become involved in a highly emotional dispute following the officer’s decision to shoot the dog before dozens of bystanders at D.C.’s annual Adams Morgan Day festival on Sept. 12.
Dale Edwin Sanders, an attorney representing Officer Scott Fike, said extensive media coverage of the incident has failed to report that Fike is a dog lover assigned to the department’s canine unit and takes home each night one of the unit’s German Shepherds.
“He’s being portrayed as a monster by bloggers and it’s totally unfair,” Sanders said. “He’s the last person in the world to shoot a dog if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.”
But Dupont Circle resident Aaron Block, 25, who was caring for Parrot through a dog foster care program run by the local group Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, told the Washington Post that Fike shot and killed the dog without justification after Parrot and a poodle being walked by a woman got into a fight on the street.
Fike said he isn’t authorized to speak to the media and referred a reporter to Sanders for comment.The owner of the poodle, Adams Morgan resident Sheila Martins-Silva, could not be reached.
John Valentine, an attorney representing Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, said Block told him Fike took hold of Parrot after Block had already subdued the dog and had him under his control.
Block said Fike forcefully pressed the dog into the pavement with his knee then tossed Parrot into a stairwell before shooting him in the neck and killing him in the stairwell.
“There were dozens of people watching,” Block said. “I can tell you that if you ask any of them they will tell you this was so unnecessary. There was no reason for that police officer to shoot Parrot.”
Sanders points to a police account that Parrot locked his jaws on the poodle’s paw as Block and others who rushed to the scene tried to free the poodle from Parrot’s mouth. Sanders said Fike told him Block had not been able to regain control over Parrot and the dog – who has been identified as a Shar-pei-pit bull mix breed – posed a threat to the safety of nearby festival goers.
Sanders said Fike, who was on patrol duty at the Adams Morgan Festival at the time of the incident, reported what he described as a chaotic scene, with festival goers screaming and a young man later identified as Block on the ground with his hand inside Parrot’s mouth.
“There was blood all over the place,” Sanders quoted Fike as saying in describing Block’s hand and arm. Sanders said Fike’s immediate observation was that Parrot was not under control and that Bock was being injured and he and others in the crowd were in imminent danger.
At the time Fike arrived on the scene, the Poodle had already been disengaged from Parrot’s mouth and Fike initially didn’t know another dog was involved in the incident, Sanders said. All Fike saw upon his arrival was Block’s hand locked inside Parrot’s mouth.
It was at that time when Fike kneeled on the dog and pulled on his leash, enabling Block to free his hand from the dog’s mouth, Sanders said.
Block called that account “not even remotely true,” saying he freed his own hand from Parrot’s mouth. He said he scraped his own fingers and hand as he pulled open Parrot’s mouth to secure the release of the poodle’s paw. He said his injury “was not big deal” and he didn’t need medical attention.
Sanders said Fike claims Parrot bit him as he tried to subdue the dog. Fike threw the dog into the stairwell as part of a “conservative measure” to try to injure and subdue the animal without having to use lethal force, Sanders said. But Sanders recounted Fike’s claim that Parrot began to charge at Fike from the staircase, prompting Fike to shoot the dog to protect himself and others standing nearby.
“If Scott hadn’t done what he did that dog could have gone into the crowd and killed somebody,” Sanders said.
Block said he was looking in another direction when the confrontation between the two dogs started and he did not see which dog started what he called a fight between the dogs. Valentine said other witnesses on the scene reported that the poodle inflicted injuries on Parrot’s face and they were unclear as to which dog started the fight
The poodle’s owner has said she allowed her dog to walk over to Parrot while both dogs were on leashes and without any indication that the dogs would get into a fight, Valentine said.
Block said Parrot has no history of biting anyone and described the dog as gentle and friendly to people. Valentine and Block said many witnesses who have come forward have backed up Block’s version of what happened.
Block said he doesn’t believe Parrot bit Fike and believes the injury reported on Fike’s hand was likely caused by chaffing from Parrot’s leash.
Valentine notes that a police report refers to Fike’s hand injury as an “abrasion” rather than a dog bite.
Sanders calls that account “absolutely false,” saying a police evidence technician examined and photographed Fike’s wound and observed puncture marks, confirming it as a dog bite. He said a police official also alerted Fike that he may have to undergo rabies shots if an autopsy of Parrot tests positive for rabies.
In a development that alarmed Fike and police investigators, according to Sanders, officials with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue couldn’t immediately find records showing whether or not Parrot had been given rabies shots. Sanders said that Fike was also concerned that Block wasn’t using an appropriate dog leash for taking Parrot into an area crowded with people, noting that Block should have used a “looped” leash that can be pulled over a dog’s snout and is far better suited to control a dog.
Block said Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, for which he is a volunteer, had all the necessary records for Parrot, including Rabies immunization records.
Sanders said witnesses, including a local judge whom he did not identify, have come forward to support Fike’s version.
Sanders said that before leaving the scene of the incident, Fike responded to pleas for help by Martins-Silva, the owner of the injured poodle, by arranging for a police officer in a cruiser to take the poodle to an animal hospital in Northwest Washington, where the dog received emergency treatment.
He said police officials have put Fike on temporary administrative leave as the department’s Internal Affairs unit investigates the incident.
The dog shooting, which received national media coverage, took place on 18th Street, N.W., with hundreds of festival goers standing nearby and dozens watching in horror as the incident unfolded.