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Owner of pit bull-mix fatally shot by St. Petersburg police says dog was not attacking

ST. PETERSBURG — Tammy Kay Chabala wants a few more seconds.

That's all she says she would need to say, "our dog doesn't bite."

It would have been enough time, she says, to grab her 8-month-old pit bull-Shar-Pei mix, D-Bo, and move him safely to the bedroom — away from the police officer's drawn Glock handgun.

But she never got the chance.

Monday afternoon, Chabala, her mother and daughter watched in horror as D-Bo was shot in the head.

Police said a snarling D-Bo attacked officer Jereme Hayes, a three-year veteran who has been trained to spot vicious dogs.

Chabala and her family say that's not true and want to know how a police officer could shoot their dog with so little warning.

Three St. Petersburg officers were called to the small home off an alley behind 16th Avenue N just before 5 p.m.

Chabala's 22-year-old daughter, Vicktoria, called 911 because of a dispute with an ex-boyfriend. Chabala answered the door and invited the officers inside.

"Don't let D-Bo out of the room," she called out to the her daughter, who was in the bedroom with the dog. D-Bo liked to greet new people by jumping on them and licking them, she said.

But her daughter opened the bedroom door and the tan pit bull mix slipped between her legs and bounded across the small room.

Chabala tried to grab the 50 to 60 pound dog's harness but missed.

Moments later, the dog was dead.

Police said the dog let out a snarl and charged Hayes, tail straight and rigid, mouth open, teeth exposed. Hayes tried to back out the open door but was blocked by the other two officers, police said.

They said the dog tried to bite Hayes' left leg and the officer tried to push it back. Hayes, 27, fired after the dog tried to bite him a second time, police said.

"There was no question in his mind the dog was in a mode to bite," said police spokesman Mike Puetz.

Hayes recently took a training class on how to identify dogs that are ready to attack, Puetz said. What's more, he has dealt with vicious dogs before and is frequently asked by other officers to deal with dogs. He owns two pit bulls himself and is "a dog lover," Puetz said.

The Chabalas say police are lying about the attack.

The dog's tail was wagging, not rigid, and he never snarled. He hadn't made a noise since he first barked when police knocked on the door, they said. The Chabalas said they never saw Hayes touch the dog.

Also, they said, Hayes said nothing to warn them.

"I swear for the Lord on the Holy Bible all he wanted to do was go to the door and say 'Hey,' " Tammy Chabala said, tears streaming down her face, a stack of tissues crumpled on the table. "None of the officers were in danger whatsoever. None."

The whole incident took seconds.

"He took my best friend," she said. "He might have a mean face, but he had a heart of gold," she said."

"He's so nice to people," added Vicktoria Chabala.

But all Hayes saw was a charging pit bull, Puetz said.

"The officer has to make a split-second decision," Puetz said.

Owner of pit bull-mix fatally shot by St. Petersburg police says dog was not attacking 07/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2011 11:10pm]
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