GRPD Chief: Shooting “Necessary” To Stop Pitbull

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk says two officers were justified when they shot and killed a pitbull running towards them during an altercation on Rose Street Tuesday night.

Police had followed a teenager back to the home at 106 Rose Street after a complaint that he and another boy had been throwing snowballs at cars.

Belk says the two officers fired 12 shots at the pitbull – four from one officer, eight from the other. The dog’s family says 11 of those hit their dog.

FOX 17 asked Belk if he felt 12 shots was excessive.

“The officers are trained to fire until the threat is eliminated or is reduced,” he said Thursday.

“Does it sound a bit excessive? I guess on the surface, it would seem that way, but the officers felt it was necessary to eliminate what I feel was a very real and dangerous threat.”

Police say an officer asked two men outside the home if there was a teenager inside that had been throwing snowballs. One of the men – 32-year-old James Lawrence – lived at the home with his girlfriend and her children and told the officer he would go inside to check.

“The officer said, ‘Well, I’ll go ahead and knock at the door,’ Belk says. “So the officer went to the door, began to knock when the individual got out of the car, came up to the house, and pushed the officer aside and went to go in the house.”

Police say an altercation broke out between the officer, Lawrence, and Lawrence’s brother. At some point, the pitbull broke out of its cage and bit all three.

Belk says the officer fled outside and jumped into a trailer in a neighbor’s driveway to get away from the dog. Lawrence wandered back out, where two officers had responded. Eventually, the pitbull walked through the open back door. Belk says when the dog started to come after Lawrence again, he told it to “go get” the officers.

As the dog ran towards the officers, they opened fire.

Lawrence is in Kent County Jail on a charge of assaulting a police officer. He’s being held on $10,000 bond. He has two prior felony drug charges and a bench warrant for driving with a suspended license.

Lawrence won’t face any charges regarding the pitbull. Belk says no one could have controlled or commanded the dog during the incident.

Animal Control records show the pitbull – named Chewey – had one bite complaint against it in August 2012. Jessica Howard owns the dog and says Chewey had bit her out of fear when she screamed after finding a bat flying inside the house.

Howard says she’s looking into pressing charges against the officers for their use of force.

“His home was invaded and he was protecting his family,” she says. “And he had to get shot for that. It’s not fair.”

The two teenagers won’t face any charges of property damage stemming from the snowballs.

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  • guest

    no charges for the real animals (the cops and the kids) but a dog that was reacting normally (protection and perhaps fear) is killed. i think it should be the other way around. just sayin.

    • guest

      I agree. If a cop cannot subdue a dog that weighs much less than them, how will thy be able to subdue a full grown man? They have al of these 'non-lethal' weapons just for that purpose. Why couldn't they have tasted it? They were just lazy and they didn't give a shit. Firing that many bullets in a neighborhood should get them charged with at least reckless discharge of a firearm. If a civilian had done the exact same thing he would be in jail now because 12 shots would be excessive in any self-defense trial.

      • guest1

        Pit bulls are killing machines that don't stop until they are dead, hence this story. The officer had a choice; try and wrestle down a frenzied dog that was trying to eat his face or shoot the thing. I'm gussing the cop has ZERO regrets in the outcome. He still has a face.

        Maybe a hug would have stopped the dog, who knows. Best error on the side of caution.

  • Kristi

    I think shooting the dog was wrong.. If it would have been a golden retriever would the out come have been the same? We all know the only reason the dog got shot is cause it was a pit. Of course the police will say different, but we know!

    But yet again the dog did bite officers, regardless of the reason.

    Could have maced the dog.. I really think there should be a non deadly weapon for occasions like
    this. Officers don't shoot people that attack them unless there is a weapon envolved.

    Ok getting off my soap box cause I could go on and on.

        • Brady


          I don't agree at all with breed specific legislation or ordinances targeting pit bulls. But there's no escaping the reality that pit bull have been bred to fight. They can be very gentle with good owners but they can be a violent breed of dog with irresponsible owners -much more so than the average golden retriever. They're built differently. They behave differently due to genetics. That's not to say that Chewey's death was Chewey's fault because of his breed. But it also wasn't the fault of the police. Chewey unfortunately lived in a bad home.

  • tim plumb

    Once again a pitbull is killed by an uneducated cop and what i mean by that is they no nothing about dogs they just shoot to kill not how to handle the situation without activating their itchy damn trigger fingers! trigger happy cops is all they are and they just try to justify killing a family pet who was just protecting its family. my question is when are they gonna start shooting us the same way. grand rapids doesnt have police they are the old german gustapo. nothing more than licensed killers. chicken shit bastards learn how to control a situation with a dog without unloading your magazine into it. hell even i could have stopped the dogs attack and i am in a wheelchair. learn how to handle the dogs not shoot them. easy enough to just grab their collar dumbasses thats all i have to do even if it is being aggressive because as we all know control the head and the body will follow get a clue and wisen up GRPD.

    • Brian

      Police can enter a dwelling without a warrant if they are in pursuit of a fleeing suspect regardless of whether or not charges are later filed against the suspect.

      • guest

        man! I sure miss my civil liberties. But cops are obviously keeping us safe right? I mean look at this incident. It ended perfectly! kids throwing snowballs….this did not need to happen. THE COPS SHOULD NEVER HAVE GOTTEN INVOLVED ALL THEY DO IS MAKE EVERYTHING WORSE WITH THEIR WEAPONS AND SMALL MINDS AND DISREGARD FOR EVERYONE ELSE.

  • Bee

    Dear police, please stop killing everything that moves. Please stop "protecting" us from peoples pets as you just seem to be making things worse. Two men had to shoot one dog TWELVE times? Seems like cowardice to me. Seems like animal cruelty. By the way, Mr. Belk, please stop driving around and hitting people on bikes. I know that you can get away with it just as your officers will get away with the murder of this pet, but stop anyway. You people think that you will be above the law forever..

    • guest2

      They had to shoot the dog twelve times? Sounds like a pit bull to me. Oh, wait, but they don't have locked jaws, right? What difference does it make? They hone in one something and will not stop until it or the victim is dead.

      Good job, cops.Take out the trash!

    • guest2

      People tend to panic when they're about to get their throat ripped out by a beast. It's a flight or flight thing. Their training kicked in and they took out the threat.

  • Mykal

    Outrageous, All I can think of is this person that killed this innocent dog. The act of fear or defense is nothing to be killed over. And shot twelve times? Was that nessacary?

  • Brady

    Twelve shots between two officers is easily understandable by anyone who has been through stress based firearms training. With a semi-automatic pistol, that can happen in less than two seconds which is the likely amount of time it took the animal to stop lunging at the officers. Anyone who feels that is excessive likely has very little practical firearms experience. Pitbulls are solid muscular dogs. They can easily cause serious bodily injury and even kill adults. The police were right to use lethal force in this case. The dog is dead because of very poor choices by the adults who live at this house and poor parenting, not because of mistakes the officers made.

  • jasmine

    the thing is tho, the first shot that was fired hit the dog in the face so after that first shot he was down. then the cops kept shooting while he was down, & i watched them kill him the bullets kept bouncing off his body. what them cops did were wrong, they had NO RIGHT to bust in OUR home when they were told to wait outside so the owner could get the kids. FUCKIN IDIOTS!!!

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