City Attorney Defends LAPD's Firing of Weapon on Venice Boardwalk

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SANTA MONICA (CNS) - A British tourist who was accidentally shot and wounded in her right leg by Los Angeles police while riding a bicycle on the Venice Boardwalk in 2016 was not the victim of negligence or unreasonable force on the part of the LAPD, lawyers for the City Attorney's Office state in new court papers explaining that an officer was protecting himself from a vicious dog.

Plaintiff Abbie Gray's Santa Monica Superior Court suit states that she was 24 years old when she was traveling along the boardwalk bicycle path about 3 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2016, when LAPD officers approached a group of people with a dog because their personal items were blocking the path. One of the officers suddenly fired his gun at the dog "for reasons not currently known to plaintiff," according to her court papers, which say the bullet struck the animal and passed through its body before striking Gray in the right calf while she was close by.

The officer shot the dog even though it was not a threat to anyone and despite the fact that innocent bystanders like Gray were nearby, according to the suit, which also alleges the officers' supervisors negligently supervised their subordinates and did not have in place a sound plan for dealing with the dog that did not involve using lethal force.

Gray was with her boyfriend visiting Los Angeles from the town of Grays in the English county of Essex, the suit filed in December 2017 states.

But in a trial brief filed Tuesday, lawyers for the City Attorney's Office state the dog was indeed a threat. The attorneys state that two LAPD officers on horseback doing crime suppression when they observed two men and a woman with three dogs, including a large pit bull, sitting in the sand next to the bike path.

The individuals had several bags and other items cluttering the bike path, so the officers told the people to remove them, according to the trial brief. However, one of the individuals, who had bloodshot eyes, became belligerent, the trial brief states.

The officers learned that the individual had a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest and when they tried to take him into custody, he resisted and one of his companions interfered, the trial brief states. The officers took the companion to the ground and the pit bull began "barking viciously," the trial brief states.

The pit bull suddenly charged and latched his mouth onto one of the officer's left wrist and forearm, prompting the officer to fire his weapon because he could not break free of the animal's hold, the trial brief states.

"Unfortunately, ... plaintiff was riding a bicycle along the bike path and was inadvertently struck after the bullet penetrated and exited out of the canine," the trial brief states.

Gray was struck in one calf and medical treatment was provided subsequently, according to the trial brief.

"Under the totality of the circumstances, (the officer) was entitled to use deadly force to protect himself after being attacked by an aggressive canine," the trial brief states. " Ultimately, based upon the canine's aggressive and threatening movement/actions in attempting to maul (the officer, he) had no alternative but to react to these threatening and aggressive actions, ultimately forcing (the officer) to shoot to stop the apparent threat that the canine posed at the time. It was unfortunate that plaintiff was incidentally struck by the shot."

The officer reasonably believed that the dog's "aggressive and threatening actions" posed a danger to him and that he needed to act quickly, the trial brief further states.

"In this case, all the evidence comes down to (the officer) attempting to stop the threat the canine posed, who was a threat to himself, to the officers and to the community at large," according to the trial brief, which further states Gray has not proven the officer's actions "were not objectively reasonable."

The state Penal Code provides immunity to the officer under the circumstances, meaning the city cannot be liable either, according to the trial brief.

Trial of the case is scheduled Feb. 6.

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