INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Internal affairs investigators found no fault with the Indian River County Sheriff’s lieutenant who shot and killed a charging bluenose pit bull last month while authorities were searching an area near the dog’s home, according to a report.
The owners of the dog filed a citizen’s complaint about the Dec. 6 incident in the 1700 block of 39th Street in Vero Beach, the Sheriff’s Office said. A family member said the pit bull named Smoke was 8 months old.
Members of the Sheriff’s Office joined the Vero Beach Police Department, the Secret Service and the North Miami Police Department to execute a search warrant at the location. Authorities were looking for a cellphone they believed was connected with a suspect in a Dec. 1 homicide case in North Miami.
Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Consalo said the phone signal was tracked to an area within 100 feet of the house. He was walking alongside the properties when the bluenose pit bull in one yard broke off its chain and charged at him, according to his report. Consalo shot Smoke through his right shoulder as the dog lunged at him, he told investigators. The pit bull stopped and walked away for about 20 feet before collapsing, the report states.
In the complaint, Smoke’s owner said his 4-year-old daughter was standing a short distance from where the shooting happened. Tammy Harp, the girl’s grandmother, said she and family members are upset about the loss of Smoke. She was also concerned that the family was not notified about the ongoing search before the shooting.
According to Sheriff’s Office policy, a deputy may use lethal force if he or she believes it will prevent either imminent danger or serious physical injury.
“This breed of dog is considered dangerous and often attacks without provocation,” another deputy wrote in his report on the shooting. “I am aware of the danger posed by an animal of this size.”
The deputy also wrote that the chain used to secure Smoke was not adequate for the dog. The pit bull was described as between 65 to 75 pounds in the report, but Harp said Smoke weighed much less.
Consalo said the phone was later recovered at the scene. However, the owner of the phone had no connection with the homicide and had been assigned a phone number previously associated with the suspect, Consalo said.