MANSFIELD -- Mansfield City Council viewed its most graphic argument in favor of a ban on pit bull dogs within city limits at Tuesday night's meeting.
Mansfield Law Director John Spon arranged for a video viewing of Shelby Police officers forced to fatally shoot a pit bull attacking a man at a residence on Joelynn Drive. The incident took place shortly after 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10.
Spon asked that the video be shown twice: once as an initial viewing, and once so that viewers could imagine if the attack victim had been a small child, not an adult man. The video was taken from the body camera of Shelby Officer John Reed; viewer discretion is advised.
At approximately 10:13 p.m. on Dec. 10, the Shelby Police Department received a 911 transfer call about a dog attack. Upon arrival, officers saw the dog attacking a man in a back bedroom of the residence. Officer John Reed deployed his TASER on the dog, giving the victim time to break free and escape the room.
The dog recovered after the TASER stopped cycling and began charging toward the door. Officers Reed and Cody Baker stayed between the victim and the dog. Officer Baker fired two rounds at the dog, striking the dog with both shots and killing the animal immediately.
The video viewing and subsequent discussion took place after the conclusion of caucus on Tuesday evening, but before the start of Mansfield City Council. Shelby Police Chief Lance Combs was on hand to offer context to the video - in fact, he said this was not his first encounter with the specific pit bull featured in the video.
"This actually happened in my neighborhood," Combs said. "Sometime in the spring I was out running a little bit late, and that specific dog was standing at the end of the driveway. When the dog saw me I slowed down, the dog walked out into the street, put its head down and its ears back and continued to stand off with me."
As a former canine handler and owner of two German Shepherds, Combs is familiar with dog behavior. He said the behavior of the pit bull made him nervous that evening.
"I started to square off and face the dog, told it to get out of here, at which time the victim of the attack came around the corner and told me that dog wouldn't hurt anybody," Combs said. "I know he's very glad we were there when we were."
When Officers Reed and Baker walked into the bedroom on Dec. 10, they witnessed the dog had a grip on the victim. Combs said the officers described the latch as trying to take a bone from a dog that doesn't want it taken.
"The dog came off of the victim to charge the officers, and that's when the officer first drew his weapon," Combs said. "The victim used that as a distraction to try to get into the bathroom, but you can see when the dog saw the victim move, he went back in and had enough strength to pull him through the door and pin him to the ground."
Combs said the original plan of Officers Reed and Baker was to tase the dog, secure it in the room, call the dog warden and wait for them to get there to take care of the dog. However, due to the homeowners remodeling the home at the time of the incident, part of the door frame into the bedroom was broken.
"As the female was trying to get the dog off of her boyfriend, she decided to run out and when she did she hit the door and knocked it out of the frame," Combs explained. "When the officers realized the door was broken, they knew they had to stay between the dog, the victim and anybody else."
Mansfield Councilman Don Bryant asked Combs whether responding to dog attacks was part of officer training. Combs noted that Shelby officers have responded to a few pit bull attacks within the last five years.
"How did you know it was going to charge after you tased it?" Bryant asked.
"We didn't, but we couldn't take that chance," Combs responded. "Dogs will do two things when you tase them: run away from you because they don't like the pain, or continue to attack. That dog chose to move forward. I've never heard a dog make that noise when it was tased. They felt the only viable option was to try to destroy it."
Bryant noted he was shaken by the video footage of the dog attack.
"Although I don't support a (pit bull) ban, seeing that dog with all those muscles go after a family member...that scared me," Bryant said.
According to the report from the Shelby Police Department, "throughout the bedroom and bathroom there is a large amount of blood. It's on the bed, carpet, dresser, footboard, bedroom wall, bathroom door, doorknob, clothing, and wall of the bathroom." Combs described the scene as a "bloodbath."
"The video really doesn't do it justice," Combs said. "Normally we don't process scenes of dog attacks, but I was so overwhelmed when I got up there. There was blood everywhere, it looked like somebody had been murdered in that house."
Combs described the injuries of the victim as "extraordinarily severe." Shelby Fire and Community EMS arrived on the scene and treated the victim, before transporting him to OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital for treatment. The victim was transferred from OhioHealth Mansfield for additional treatment and subsequent surgery at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center in Columbus.
"I saw his thumb, and I was surprised he still had a thumb," Combs said. "Had we not gotten there in a timely fashion...if he had been alone, he would be dead. There is no doubt in my mind."
The issue of pit bull dogs and creating an animal relations position within the city of Mansfield was first raised in March, when a new state statute removed the "vicious" characteristic from the pit bull breed. A Mansfield ordinance currently bans pit bull and pit bull-type dogs within city limits.
An animal relations position has been discussed three additional times over the year within the city's safety committee meetings, at the April, October and November meetings. Many of the same ideas were discussed again at Tuesday's meeting, and similar to previous months, no concrete decisions were made.
Mansfield Police Chief Ken Coontz supported the idea of an animal relations position so as not to overextend the duties of his officers.
"Our police officers are already asked to do so many things," Coontz said. "The officers will still show up to these police calls; we've shot many pit bulls in the city and tased a bunch of pit bulls. We'll still respond and take care of the city, but you have to be careful that you're not turning police officers into dog wardens."
Coontz suggested that if pit bull dogs were not banned in the city of Mansfield, other methods of control such as limiting a number of pit bulls per household and requiring pit bulls to be spayed or neutered would be necessary.
"I'm not sure what other dogs can inflict that type of damage. They're just dangerous," Coontz said.
"Other groups come in and argue it's not the dog, it's how they were raised. I've been here 23 years, and in pit bull incidents throughout those 23 years, there are very few occasions where that actually applied," he continued. "It's actually the opposite; those dogs are pets and the first reaction is they can't believe that dog did that. They're shocked. But that's the nature of that dog, when it snaps you just don't know."
Spon noted that in conversations with the Richland County Dog Warden, the warden estimated there were currently 2,600 pit bull dogs living in the community. He said he considers the pit bull population an "extreme danger" to the community.
"We find our elderly and our children, citizens across our entire community, presently defenseless against the increasing probability of aggressive, dangerous dogs of all types that would attack, kill and maim in a horrible way," Spon said.