Pittsburgh police officer who shot dog cites its aggression

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The Pittsburgh police officer who Friday night shot and killed a homeless man's dog after it attacked him Downtown said in court papers that the animal had been aggressive on two occasions earlier that day.

The officer, Matthew Gardner, fired multiple times at the German shepherd after it bit his left forearm.

Officer Gardner was treated at UPMC Mercy and released.

Police arrested the dog's owner, Christopher D. Stephens, 34, for defiant trespass, disorderly conduct, recklessly endangering another person and public drunkenness.

The incident began around 7:25 p.m. when Officer Gardner, who was on patrol, saw Mr. Stephens passed out on the sidewalk at Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Seventh Avenue, leaning against the Encore on 7th apartment building. As Officer Gardner approached Mr. Stephens, he saw a large dog lying beside the man lift its head and look at him, according to the officer's account of the incident contained in a police affidavit.

"I stopped walking and the dog began to bark and snarl," Officer Gardner wrote. "The dog then charged me unprovoked." The dog ran about 15 feet toward the officer, jumped shoulder-high and bit Officer Gardner's arm when he put it up for protection.

Officer Gardner drew his gun, turned his body so he would be able to shoot without fear of hitting any people or the apartment building, and fired, the affidavit said. The dog "ran away for a few feet then turned left in a half circle to come back as I continued to fire until the threat stopped," according to the affidavit.

Officer Gardner wrote that the dog limped away and collapsed.

Police roused Mr. Stephens, who was described as "extremely intoxicated."

Earlier in the day, the officer wrote, the dog menaced personnel on a city medic unit while being restrained on a leash by Mr. Stephens, according to what two other officers told him.

Also, Officer Gardner wrote, a doorman at the Encore on 7th told him after the shooting that about 20 minutes earlier he had asked Mr. Stephens to move away from the building, but the dog was barking and aggressive. Mr. Stephens had to restrain the animal, the affidavit said.

Officer Gardner, 30, joined the force in July 2011.

Mr. Stephens was arraigned at City Court and released on non-monetary bond. He faces a preliminary hearing Thursday.

Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg.

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