Two days after she watched a Bettendorf police officer shoot and kill her dog, Sheila Williams said she still couldn't believe it.
"He wasn't a ferocious dog," she said of her border collie/pit bull mix, Tank. "He never bit anyone. He was only a year-and-a-half old. He probably thought the police officer was playing with him."
But Police Chief Phil Redington described a different scenario Monday, saying the dog attacked the officer, and deadly force was an appropriate response. Not only was the officer at risk, he said, but the neighborhood where the shooting occurred is full of children who also could have been attacked.
The incident began shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday when a gust of wind blew open Williams' front door, creating an opportunity for Tank and her French bulldog/pit bull mix, Cleo, to make a run for it.
They didn't make it far. From their home on Westmar Drive, they crossed nearby Spruce Hills Drive, continuing about two blocks to Harmony Drive.
"They came right up on our back deck and started barking like crazy," Dawn Streeter said of the commotion Saturday that got the attention of many people in the neighborhood. "They wouldn't go away. I think they were intrigued by our dogs."
Her husband tried to shoo away Tank and Cleo, she said, but they wouldn't go. The family called police, and a 911 recording of police radio traffic that day reveals just how fearful the Streeters were. At one point, a dispatcher warns, the homeowner threatened to shoot the animals. It did not help, Dawn Streeter said, that one dog (Cleo) clearly looked like a pit bull and the other dog (Tank) appeared to be a pit bull mix.
Fair or not, she said, the breed has a reputation that puts many people, especially those with children and other animals, on high alert.
Just minutes after the Streeters called 911, Williams' neighbor, who was helping to look for her dogs, also called police. They were told where they could find Tank and Cleo.
"Someone had rounded them up on the back deck, using lawn chairs to contain them," Williams said of the scene she encountered at the Streeters' house. "When he (Tank) saw me, he jumped over one of the chairs, and the officer tried to grab him."
But Williams had her hands full with Cleo and turned her back. She did not see the attack Redington described.
"When the officers arrived, the homeowner had the dogs blocked off on the back deck with deck chairs," he said. "The owner of the dogs also arrived on scene. As the owner was trying to put a harness on one of the dogs, the other dog ran past her.
"The officer tried to block the dog’s path to keep it contained. The dog then jumped at the officer, snapping its teeth. The officer brushed the dog away with his arm and the dog attacked again, jumping and snapping at the officer’s face. The officer kicked the dog away, at which time the dog bit his shin, causing minor lacerations. The officer removed his gun and fired at the dog twice. The dog was approximately two feet away when the officer fired in a downward direction."
Dawn Streeter said several witnesses saw the dog "face to face" with the police officer, but she was not one of them.
Redington said the officer, whose name was not released, was sent to Trinity Bettendorf because the bite broke the skin on his leg, adding, "He wasn't badly hurt."
Williams said she wants to know why the officer had to kill Tank, who she adopted at 3 months old. She adopted Cleo from a shelter last August, because she thought Tank needed a dog friend.
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"I keep playing the scenario over and over in my mind," she said, crying. "I blame myself. They shouldn't have gotten out. Why did he have to shoot him, though? Why not a stun gun or pepper spray?"
Redington said the level of force that is used to ward off a dog attack is the officer's discretion.
"Deadly force is allowed under these circumstances," he said. "You can look back after the fact and say, 'Why didn't you do this?' It was a dangerous situation for him and for everybody else there. What if he'd used pepper spray and the dog got away? What if he used a Taser, and the barbs came out? You can try those things, but it's going to be worse if it doesn't work.
"We all love animals. To me, it doesn't matter if it's a pit bull, border collie or poodle. If he's attacking a police officer, the officer should defend himself."
Williams said, after the shooting, the officer helped her carry Tank to her car. She drove him to the emergency veterinarian, where he died.
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