CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign police officer shot and killed a dog that had attacked one man and was coming at the officer Thursday night.
"This dog attacked somebody. He knocked down a grown man and bit him in the leg and the arm," said Deputy Police Chief Joe Gallo. "The victim had to jump a fence to get away. The dog was still barking at him."
The incident happened just before 9 p.m. in the 700 block of North Elm Street.
A woman saw the 20-year-old man, who lived in that neighborhood, being attacked by a dog that Gallo said appeared to be a pit bull, and called police.
The call came in at 8:56 p.m., the officer was there seconds before 9 p.m. and the shots were fired two minutes later, Gallo said.
Gallo said the officer, whose name he did not want to release, talked to the victim as he was leaning against a fence across the street. The dog then charged at the officer.
"He fired his first round of shots and the dog continued advancing and he fired again," Gallo said, adding it took "multiple" shots to stop the dog.
He said the officer likely did not have time to try less lethal means under the circumstances.
"After a dog attacks and is charging, there are only so many options you have. The officer went with the most effective one. If the dog continued to charge after shots were fired, it's doubtful pepper spray would have affected him," Gallo said. "Were there other reasonable options available to the officer at the time? That's the question we have to answer."
Gallo said the dog had a chain around its neck, suggesting that it had been tied up but got loose.
"It appears the dog charged the man hard enough to knock him down. He is a 170-pound grown man. This is not a small dog," said Gallo.
The man who was bitten received treatment at Carle Foundation Hospital for what Gallo described as puncture wounds. The police officer was not physically injured.
The city's animal control officer spoke to the owner, who has not been issued any citations. Gallo said police will continue to review the case before deciding if a citation is warranted.
The incident is the third in seven months involving a Champaign police officer fatally shooting a dog with a duty weapon.
On Nov. 17, 2012, an officer shot and killed a family pet that was being attacked by another vicious dog near the corner of Crescent and John streets. Officer Andre Davis ended up being suspended for a day without pay for firing his gun multiple times in that residential neighborhood. The dog owners are still waiting to hear from the city of Champaign about a potential settlement.
On Feb. 7, an officer whose name has not been released shot and killed a dog in the 1000 block of West William Street after officers believed the dog was advancing on them at the orders of his owner. That case resulted in criminal charges against the dog owner for misdemeanor aggravated assault and felony resisting a peace officer. Those charges remain unresolved.
Gallo said in the West William Street case, an internal review concluded the officer acted according to departmental guidelines and was not disciplined.
In the wake of the November dog shooting, the police department changed its policy to say that a human had to be threatened before an officer could use lethal force on an animal. And in April, Urbana's animal control officer began training for Champaign police officers on how to deal with aggressive animals. Gallo said most of the officers have received that training.
Gallo urged dog owners to make sure their dogs are properly secured.
"Although this was an unfortunate event for all parties involved, I am thankful that this did not involve a child who could have been seriously injured. Pet owners, you have a responsibility to make sure that your animals are properly secured and under control at all times," he said.
Because a gun was fired Thursday night, there will be a review of the officer's actions to make sure he acted in accordance with departmental rules. Since no human was hit by gunfire, there is no requirement that the officer be put on leave, Gallo said.