Cops In Hawthorne Dog Shooting Pulled From Street Duty After Receiving Death Threats
Three police officers involved in the controversial shooting of a dog in Hawthorne have been pulled from street duty after receiving numerous death threats.
They've been assigned to duties within the station after they and their families were threatened, Hawthorne police Lt. Scott Swain told the Daily Breeze.
"I understand that people have been affected by this video. Anyone would be," Swain said. "The police officers involved are affected by this incident and having to kill a dog. I don't understand how it translates into an eye for an eye. 'We are going to kill you and your family because of this incident.'"
Swain, the agency's Public Information Officer, has also been the target of some of the threats. He's the public face of the department, but, as he pointed out to the paper, he not only wasn't at the scene of the shooting: "I wasn't even working that night."
An unrelated art store in Glendale with the name "Swain's" has been receiving death threats because of the incident.
Hawthorne Police Chief Robert Fager today released a letter condemning the threats that have been leveled at the officers and those not even involved in the shooting. "Unfortunately, in the midst of this social media response, fallacies are being perpetuated and outright criminal threats are being made,'' Fager wrote.
He said the department "truly feels in the loss'' of the dog. "We, as a department, as animal owners ourselves, and the officer directly involved himself, all relate and empathize in this.''
"There's a lot of calls coming in where people are calling us names and dog killers," Swain told the Daily Breeze. "They are entitled to their opinions and to make comments like that. But where you cross the line is when you make the threat against the safety of police officers and police officers' family members."
Swain said that officers in the field have been told to be "extra vigilant," adding, "You'd like to believe that maybe some of the people are just venting, but then you've got to be realistic. There are crazy people out there."
The shooting happened on Sunday and on Monday, a video showing a police officer shooting a Rottweiler four times as they tried to arrest its owner was uploaded to YouTube, where it quickly racked up millions of hits.
The sheer volume of emails and comments crashed the city of Hawthorne's website. When we tried to access their site just now, it still appeared to be down.
The Hawthorne Police Department's Facebook page has also been targeted by people who are outraged about the shooting, including someone who left negative comments on a post about an officer who died two years ago in a motorcycle accident.
In one of the milder comments, John Hayes wrote on the memorial post: "I wish more Hawthorne police would have accidents like this, instead of shooting dogs."
Dispatchers, who usually receive 10 calls an hour, have been receiving 75 phone calls per hour. Many of the callers are from out of state and even out of the country. When the video first hit Monday night, the dispatch center logged 950 calls in eight hours. "We've had a few bomb threats," the operations manager told the Daily Breeze.
Two investigations are being conducted. Fager said that the shooting "is being addressed in the most appropriate manner demanded and afforded,'' and that the department "will be accountable to its constituents and to our actions.''