Monday, August 22, 2005

Family Dog Shot By DC Police Officer

The following article appeared in today's Washington Post.

'I Loved Peach Like She Was My Child'
D.C. Owners Weigh Legal Options After Police Fatally Shoot Dog

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 22, 2005; B01

The two police officers who had answered the burglar alarm were crouched in Palmer Graham's driveway, aiming their pistols at her barking dog. "She's friendly," an alarmed Graham yelled as she stood just a few feet from the officers and her dog, Peach. "She won't hurt you!"

One officer screamed that the animal was attacking them, and the other ordered Graham to get control of the Weimaraner, Graham said. But she was too frightened to step between Peach and the armed officers. A shot rang out. The female dog was struck in the face and died later at an animal hospital, Graham said, describing the Aug. 10 incident outside her Foxhall home in Northwest Washington.

Graham and her husband, Barry, said they are considering legal action and plan to file a complaint over the shooting. They said officers never should have opened fire in their neighborhood because they risked hitting Graham or even a child on a nearby playground.

"This could have been a bigger tragedy," Palmer Graham said. "I think this was wrong. I could have been killed if the bullet could have bounced off something and hit me. They never backed off toward their patrol cars, which were only about 15 or 20 feet away."

Police officials said they are investigating the shooting and identified the officer who fired as Arvette D. Parry, a 15-year department member. Parry did not respond to messages left at the 2nd Police District office. The other officer was identified as William J. Peterson, who joined the force in 2000.

Cmdr. Robert Contee of the 2nd District said: "The officer was in reasonable fear that she was being attacked by the dog. . . . She took the action to defend herself."

Police shootings of dogs in the District are rare, especially in Northwest. Last year, 10 dogs were shot at by police, records show. All were pit bulls, a breed with a reputation for aggressive behavior. None was in the 2nd District.

The Grahams moved to Washington in 1979 and have lived in the Foxhall neighborhood since 1988. Barry Graham is an intellectual property lawyer, and his wife is a former editor and writer for an interior design magazine. They bought their first Weimaraner 11 years ago. Worried that the dog, Georgie, was getting old, the Grahams bought Peach in 2001.

The Grahams said they viewed the dogs as family members.

"I loved Peach like she was my child," Palmer Graham said. "I was thinking about what I would do when Georgie dies. And I kept thinking that I still have Peach."

Graham was returning from the dentist when she saw the officers near her driveway about 3:30 p.m. The burglar alarm they had answered turned out to be false, but Graham asked the officers to hang around for a few minutes while she checked her house.

When she opened the garage door, the 65-pound dog darted out and ran up the driveway, headed straight for the officers, Graham said. She said Peach never would have attacked. She was not lunging but was standing several feet from the officers, barking, Graham said.

After Peach was shot, the dog scrambled around the side of the house and eventually stopped in the driveway. Graham hustled Peach into her Mercedes and drove to Friendship Hospital for Animals about three miles away. Peterson followed with his lights on and siren blaring to help Graham get through red lights and stop signs, she said.

Veterinarians operated for several hours, Graham said, but couldn't save the dog. Peach died about midnight. Graham and her husband were by her side.

"I held her, and Barry held me," Graham said. "I told her: 'I love you. I will always love you.' "

Since the shooting, the Grahams have received flowers from friends and associates. They said they have retained a lawyer and provided police investigators with a five-page witness statement.

"We don't want this to happen again," Barry Graham said. "This was a loss in front of my wife's eyes. They should know how to deal with a barking dog."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company