NEW PORT RICHEY — His back yard is on a bayou, and Thursday afternoon Phillip Goins went fishing.
Lili, his white pit bull, stood nearby as usual. Suddenly, she turned and ran toward the front of the house and jumped the white picket fence. Goins ran after her.
Then he heard shots.
He got past the gate and saw Lili across the street. Two Pasco County sheriff's deputies had their weapons drawn.
"Stop, she won't hurt you," he shouted.
He said they kept shooting.
His other dog, a mixed-breed named Gretchen, had followed behind. Goins said the deputies turned their guns toward her and ordered him to control her. He said he stepped in between the guns and his dog to protect her. He got her inside the house.
Lili had been shot several times. As she staggered, one of the deputies shot her one more time to end her suffering, Goins said. She was dead.
Goins' wife, Angie, crumpled on their lawn at 6971 Edgewater Drive. They had owned Lili since she was 6 weeks old. She swam in the bayou every day and slept in their bed at night. They took her on vacations. This fall, they went hiking in Vermont.
When Goins fished, Lili stood in the boat with him. Goins, 51, said he is a disabled Army veteran and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. His pets are his therapy, he said.
Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said the two deputies — a field training officer and a new deputy in training — were in the area to investigate a theft when they saw the dog jump the fence, cross the street and charge them.
"They felt threatened," Doll said.
"Preliminary information indicates the deputies had every right to defend themselves."
Doll said the agency will conduct an internal investigation into the matter. He said Lili had been quarantined previously with Pasco Animal Control after biting someone. Goins said it happened when Lili was 6 months old. She saw a man walk over to talk with a woman. He carried a rake and raised it to rest on his shoulder. Goins believes she thought the man was going to hurt the woman. He said he and his wife put Lili through obedience classes after that — and she was never aggressive again.
"I can't believe she's gone," he said softly. "I can't believe it."
Edgewater Drive is narrow, the houses close together. Kids and pets roam freely and most people know each other. Crowds formed on the street after Lili was shot around 1:30 p.m., neighbors shouting and shaking in anger that the dog had been shot and that the deputies had fired in an area with so many kids.
"This dog wouldn't hurt nobody," said Diane Castleberry, 45.
"She was very sweet," said Martha Orifice, 55. "Very loving."
Krystal Harris, a friend of Goins', said she and her 2-year-old daughter, Saia Brunotte, spent a lot of time at the house with Lili.
Harris, 23, said she would never have let her daughter play with Lili if she thought the dog would hurt her.
"She was a good dog," Harris said.
Saia sat in a plastic wagon on Goins' front lawn. She pointed her finger across the street, to where Lili's body was still on the ground, under a sheet.
"She hurt," Saia said. "She owie."
Harris ran her hand through her daughter's hair.
"She bye-bye," Saia said.
"Yes," Harris said. "She is."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.