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Tampa School Resource Officer Shoots Dog

TAMPA — A pitbull mix that attacked a student and a woman who was trying to protect him this morning near Robinson High School was shot by the school resource officer.

The dog was taken to an animal clinic where it was being treated for the gunshot wound, which did not appear to be serious enough to kill him.

Tampa police said the incident occurred around 7:45 a.m. today near the corner of West Mango Avenue and South Grady Avenue.

Alen Velic, 14, and some other students were walking along Mango Avenue when the dog attacked, police said, biting Velic on the leg.

A passing motorist, 44-year-old Michelle Bennett, stopped, jumped out of her car and grabbed a rake to fend the dog off. The other teens scampered behind a fence in a yard across the street from where the dog lived.

She also was bitten on the leg, police said.

Just then, Robinson High School Resource Officer Willie Lucas arrived and spotted the teens behind the fence and the dog menacing them. He got out of his car and the dog charged him, police said. That’s when Lucas drew his weapon and shot the dog.

Hillsborough County Animal Services took the dog to BluePearl, a veterinary clinic used by animal services. The dog will be quarantined for 10 days and after that, its fate is undetermined, said Ron Stuart, spokesman for animal services.

“It depends on what the owner wants to do,” he said. If the owner opts to keep the dog, the owner will be on the hook for the veterinary costs. If the owner relinquishes ownership of the dog to the county, it will be moved to the animal services shelter where it will be evaluated to determine its suitability for adoption, Stuart said, or if it is a dangerous dog, it might be put down.

Bennett and Velic were taken to the hospital, where they were treated for injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

Tampa police’s internal investigations unit went to the scene, said police spokeswoman Janelle McGregor.

“Any time an officer discharges a firearm,” she said, “they go out to investigate.”

Police said the dog broke loose from a fenced yard near the corner of South Clarke Avenue, though neighbors said the dog seldom was allowed to run free. A neighbor shot a cell phone video of the dog before the attack loose in the street.

Kisa Lewis, 41, stood in her carport Thursday morning after the excitement subsided. She said the dog’s owners, her next door neighbors, speak Spanish and little English. She said they own two dogs, one of which was barking as she spoke.

“We’ve had no problems in the past,” she said, holding her 16-month-old son. The dogs never were a threat and the owners appeared to take good care of them.

Barking was the only issue, she said.

“I’m surprised he bit someone,” she said. “We never see (the dogs). They basically are always in the back yard. I’ve never seen that dog out.”

Andreas Rush, 24, visits his girlfriend often on Mango Avenue and rides his motorcycle there. He said he occasionally saw the dog loose on the street, but never considered it a threat. He recently saw it “tagging along” with some students walking on the sidewalk, and it did not appear to be menacing at all.

The dog at times, did “run up on me” on the motorcycle, and “I just chased him back to his home.”

He said he didn’t see what happened this morning. “I heard the gunshot,” he said, “and that was it.”

Copyright 2014 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service