One of the most horrifying trends that we have seen associated with the use of deadly force against animals by police is the killing of human beings that consistently accompanies it. Recently in Iowa, a young mother named Autumn Mae Steele was shot and killed by police taking aim at the family dog as her husband and four year old son looked on. It was around the same time that Dekalb County Georgia police officer J.R. Pitts shot and killed Kevin Davis after opening fire on his three-legged dog Tooter.
The incident that would lead to Davis' death began with another crime against the Davis family. Davis lived in the Marquis Forest Apartments of the 100 block of Pine Tree Circle in Madison Georgia with his girlfriend, April Edwards. The couple were letting a friend sleep on the couch; a man named Terrance Hilyard. Apparently one to look a gifthorse directly in the mouth, Hilyard became embroiled in a heated argument with April over the television. At some point, the argument escalated to a physical altercation; currently all we know for sure is that during this altercation Hilyard stabbed April Edwards in the arm.
Believing that Hilyard would kill his girlfriend unless he was stopped, Kevin Davis ran upstairs with his three-legged dog Tooter to retrieve his gun (incredibly, it is being reported that Tooter had been shot by police before this incident and survived - the Puppycide Database Project has yet to confirm this prior incident). Hilyard ran out of the house when confronted by Davis, who then proceeded to call 911 once the imminent threat to himself and April had abated.
DeKalb Officer J.R. Pitts responded to that 911 call. Immediately, the description of events as given by April Edwards and her neighbors diverge from the description given by the police.
According to April, Tooter ran out the door and she and Davis heard at least one gunshot. A wounded Tooter came running back inside the apartment. At this point, she and Davis were convinced that Hilyard had returned with a gun. At this point, not even the police are trying to claim that JR Pitts identified himself as a police officer, either before or immediately after shooting Tooter without warning. The neighbors all agree that police did not identify themselves until Davis was himself shot and police backup had arrived to assist JR Pitts.
After Tooter ran inside, Davis approached the door to his apartment with the gun in his hand. Before he exits the apartment, he was shot by Pitts. April and her neighbors agree that it was only after Davis was shot that Pitts said anything. His first words? "Drop your weapon."
The police took the fatally wounded Kevin Davis to Grady Memorial Hospital. There, in a decision that is incomprehensibly cruel, police prevented his family from visiting him for nearly 48 hours as he died and took the opportunity to criminally charge Davis with aggravated assault on his death bed.
There has been an immediate public response. The hashtag #ShutitDownATL is trending on Twitter, and an organization of the same name has built a tent city of protestors outside the DeKalb County Courthouse.
Kevin Davis' family are requesting an independent investigation from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The Dekalb County Police Department's Chief Cedric Alexander, however, appears eager to keep any investigation local. Alexander had DeKalb Police Spokesman Steve Fore tell the press that DeKalb District Attorney Robert James will launch its own "independent" investigation.
The Puppycide Database Project also plans to launch an independent investigation.