The dog’s owner was standing nearby, as was the off-duty Secret Service agent who had shot the animal. The agent told police officers that the dog had charged at him, he had reached for his firearm and he had fired once, striking the animal and killing it.
Even as details of the confrontation remained unclear Tuesday, neighbors and others were stunned and appalled that a chance street encounter with a pet would end in its death.
“I can’t think of any dog that is so menacing that I feel I would need to have a firearm to protect myself,” said Walker Blankinship, who manages a stable near the site of the shooting.
“The hardest part was watching the owner grieve,” said Adelaide Gaughran-Bedell, whose family lives in the area.
By Tuesday afternoon, the authorities had not released the agent’s name. It was unclear what his assignment was or his exact role within the Secret Service.
The shooting took place around 9:45 p.m., the police said, in Windsor Terrace, a largely residential neighborhood sandwiched between Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery.
The agent reported the shooting to the police and remained at the scene outside 45 Caton Place, said Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell, a police spokeswoman.
“The dog charged him,” O’Donnell said. “He let one round go. He killed the dog.”
Blankinship, 51, said he was relaxing outside the nearby Kensington Stables when the gun went off.
“I heard the gunshot, and then I heard a guy arguing, cursing and carrying on,” he said Tuesday. “I just thought it was local people having an argument.” He added that he heard the man say, “I can’t believe you let it go off.”
Gaughran-Bedell, 20, said that the police flooded the neighborhood shortly after.
“I was a bit confused, because there were tons of policemen on our block but no one was getting arrested or questioned,” she said. “Instead, they all seemed to be looking to de-escalate the situation and pacify the owner.”
She said that she saw the dog lying lifeless on the sidewalk and then saw it again later, covered with a white cloth.
“Seeing her body on the sidewalk was pretty horrifying, especially since so many of the onlookers were walking their dogs when they stumbled onto the scene,” Gaughran-Bedell said.
A police spokesman declined to provide more information about the dog’s owner, the dog’s breed or whether it had been on a leash, referring questions to the Secret Service.
A photo published by The Daily News showed the dog, which it identified as a female Belgian Shepard, under a sheet at the scene. A leash can be seen, partially covered by the sheet.
In a statement Monday night, the Secret Service said that the dog had been unleashed and that the agency would conduct an investigation.
On Tuesday morning, a Secret Service spokesman said the dog was “an unrestrained and aggressive canine.”
A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation, said that the dog was wearing a leash when it was shot, but that the owner was not holding the leash and was not in view when the agent encountered the animal.
As news of the confrontation spread Tuesday, many people expressed their outrage and horror at the dog’s killing on social media.
It is not clear how many dogs are killed by law enforcement officers every year nationwide; neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice collect national data. At least six states require officers to be trained to recognize canine behavioral patterns and to properly handle encounters with dogs.
In 2011, a report by the Justice Department said the majority of officer-involved shooting incidents in the United States involved animals, most commonly dogs.
In a guide for law enforcement officials, the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services described the problem of dog shootings as “multifaceted,” in part because they get so much attention on social media.
In 2018, New York City police officers shot their firearms at dogs four times, according to the Police Department’s annual use of force report. One incident involved an off-duty officer in Brooklyn.
All four shootings involved aggressive dogs advancing on or attacking officers or other people, the report said. Two dogs were killed, one was injured and two were unharmed.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times .