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St. Petersburg officer, owners at odds after two dogs shot dead

Chris Clark holds the bloody collar of his landlord’s retriever, Missy, Monday after a police officer shot and killed Missy and Clark’s Rottweiler, Quincy, while on leashes Sunday night.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

Chris Clark holds the bloody collar of his landlord’s retriever, Missy, Monday after a police officer shot and killed Missy and Clark’s Rottweiler, Quincy, while on leashes Sunday night.

ST. PETERSBURG — It was over in minutes: the barking and screaming, the fangs sinking into flesh, then the gunshots.

It ended with two dogs lying dead on the side of Sixth Avenue N. But the screaming's not done yet.

St. Petersburg police Officer Slobodan Juric said he shot dead two dogs that attacked a third animal — an elderly blind dog — and were about to attack him and others.

But the dead dogs' owners say the officer didn't have to kill their dogs: Quincy, a 1-year-old Rottweiler, and Missy, a 7-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever.

"She wasn't hurting anybody," said Missy's owner, 78-year-old Joan Caldwell. "I lost my respect for the Police Department."

Quincy's owner, Chris Clark, 44, said the officer shot both leashed dogs while he was trying to control them — and fired the gun while he was just inches away from the barrel. "He was real Joe Macho," Clark said.

But Juric told his sergeant that the two dogs were about to attack him and others who were nearby.

"When he attempted to intervene, the two dogs turned to attack him and he was forced to shoot the dogs to protect himself and the citizens in the road," wrote Sgt. Joseph Collins in a police report.

The St. Petersburg Police Department allows its officers to use deadly force to defend themselves and others from "death or serious physical injury" and "to kill a seriously injured or dangerous animal" when containing that animal is "impractical."

Juric remains on duty. But his actions Sunday are being reviewed by internal affairs investigators. Then it will be up to police Chief Chuck Harmon to decide whether Juric was justified in killing the dogs and firing his weapon so close to others.

The officer has yet to give his account of what happened. But the dogs' owners spoke to the St. Petersburg Times and the police.

Clark said he was walking Quincy and Missy, who belonged to his landlord, Caldwell. It was about 10 p.m. He was in the 4600 block of Sixth Avenue N when he noticed an unleashed dog.

That dog, a blind 11-year-old golden retriever named Sadie, belonged to resident Kevin Mancias, 44. Sadie's eyes were removed two years ago because of glaucoma. Officer Juric was in the area responding to a complaint about a suspicious person.

Somehow, the dogs got into it. Mancias said the Rottweiler bit his dog in the hindquarters and wouldn't let go. Clark got twisted in the dogs' leashes and fell, but tried to pull the Rottweiler back.

Mancias said they couldn't pry Sadie free from the Rottweiler's jaws. However, Mancias said he was able to hold the Chesapeake Bay retriever back using his left arm. But the officer wasn't helping, Mancias said.

"We were trying to separate them, one thing led to another, and I guess the officer felt there was an issue and shot the Rottweiler," he said. "I grabbed my dog up and took off, and three more shots were fired. When I looked back, two dogs were dead in the street."

Clark said he heard Juric scream "Mad dog!" then draw his .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol. "I'm in total shock," Clark said. "My ears are ringing, and I just saw him shoot a dog. Everyone was screaming at this cop."

Clark was left in tears. He told the Times that he's had bad dealings with St. Petersburg police before. They threatened to arrest him, Clark said. But police said Clark made threats of his own.

"You don't have to worry about investigating (Juric)," Clark said, according to a police report. "I'll take care of it myself."

Juric, 25, has been a sworn officer for 14 months. He was a freelance photographer for the St. Petersburg Times' free tabloid tbt* from 2006 through 2008. He grew up in Bosnia and Croatia during the civil wars there in the 1990s, then came to the United States. He is a graduate of Gibbs High School and Eckerd College. His police file contains positive reviews and no serious disciplinary actions.

Last year, Juric chose not to fire his weapon at a suspect who pointed a loaded gun at him. Juric arrested the suspect.

Mancias agreed with the officer Monday that the Rottweiler was a threat — but not the other dog. "I don't know if he did the right thing or not," Mancias said. "I can't feel too bad for that Rottweiler, but I feel bad for the Chesapeake retriever."

But Mancias added: "I am surprised he fired a round with all these pedestrians around."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

St. Petersburg officer, owners at odds after two dogs shot dead 09/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 13, 2010 10:51pm]
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