By DUSTEN RADER
For The Recorder
JOHNSTOWN — A local woman is grieving after an officer from the Johnstown Police Department on Monday shot and killed her dog, which was on the loose.
The owner, Nicolle E. (Bahruth) Barnwell, on Wednesday identified the dog as Sasha, a 6-year-old female mixed-breed pit bull that she will have cremated. She said she plans on keeping the ashes of her family dog in an urn at her home.
Barnwell, who is an employee of The Recorder’s parent company, McClary Media, LLC, said she is considering holding a candlelight vigil outside her home to create a better memory than the one a red blood stain that still remains on the street inspires.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there to protect her,” Barnwell said.
According to a JPD release, officers responded to a call on South Chase Street of a pit bull chasing a juvenile male as well as a man in the street armed with a machete. Upon arrival, officers observed a black pit bull outside 23 S. Chase St. After exiting their vehicle, the dog allegedly began to growl and bark at officers.
One officer remained on the sidewalk while another went to the front door in an attempt to make contact with the owner, according to the release. The officer did not make contact at the front or rear of the house, police said. While returning to the front, the dog allegedly confronted the officer by growling and barking at him. The dog retreated when the officer withdrew an expandable baton.
The officer returned to the front door to make a second attempt to contact the owner or secure the dog, and it approached him for a third time becoming more aggressive by growling and snarling, police stated in the release.
As the officer reached the sidewalk from the front porch, the dog allegedly charged at him. The officer then backed into the street in an effort to place his patrol vehicle between himself and the dog when he fell, landing on his back, according to police. As the officer fell to the ground, the dog reportedly lunged. Believing an attack was imminent, the officer who was on the ground drew his duty weapon as the dog charged him and fired one round, striking the animal in the head and killing it, according to the release.
Statements were taken from two witnesses of the entire incident. A canvas of the neighborhood was also conducted. A statement was also taken from a resident of South Chase Street who was allegedly chased and cornered on their front porch by the pit bull on Aug. 24. The resident said the dog attempted to attack a cat and chased the animal into a tree, the release states.
Before the animal had been shot, a third unit was requested to bring an Animal Control vehicle and a catch pole to attempt the secure the dog.
Barnwell said witnesses told her Animal Control didn’t arrive until after Sasha was dead.
Lt. David F. Gilbo confirmed Wednesday the investigation has been concluded.
According to Chief Mark P. Gifford, he fully backs the officer’s actions and there will be no charges against him.
A video circulating on Facebook taken by Cassondra Davis, a neighbor and eye witness, shows the scene of the incident.
Barnwell, who was at work during the incident, said she couldn’t breathe when she learned what happened. She loved Sasha for six years, she said, and never had any issues of aggression.
“That’s not my dog,” Barnwell said. “My dog would never intentionally hurt anybody. She felt scared and threatened — she was protecting her home.”
Police cited Barnwell for an unlicensed dog and dog at large. Barnwell said Sasha’s license expired and she intended to renew it in September after she received a rabies booster shot. Barnwell is scheduled to appear in Johnstown City Court on Sept. 12.
Police allege there have been 11 previously documented incidents with Barnwell for loose or aggressive dog, and she had been issued multiple summons. However, Barnwell said she was unaware of any incidents and she has never received any summons. She also said the report of Sasha chasing a juvenile male is inaccurate. She said the person who made the report was an adult female, not male.
“I want answers,” Barnwell said.
Barnwell acknowledged knowing a window and screen of her home were damaged and that she failed to secure it before leaving, according to JPD’s news release. Barnwell confirmed that Wednesday. She said she left the window ajar so fresh air could get inside the home, but didn’t think Sasha would be able to open it.
Barnwell said Sasha was a victim of stereotyping because she was a pit bull.
“I have to be my dog’s voice,” Barnwell said. “If I don’t speak for her then who will?”
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.