Angry threats have been pouring into a Southern California police station after a video that was widely circulated on the Internet showed an officer fatally shooting a Rottweiler, police said.
Hawthorne Police Department employees are getting "criminal threats of harm" after the video surfaced showing a uniformed officer shooting the dog four times Sunday, said Chief Robert Fager.
The shooting occurred after police surrounded a home where a gunman reportedly robbed two people.
A cellphone video that had nearly three million views on YouTube by Wednesday afternoon shows the dog, named Max, scrambling out of a car's back seat through a window and lunging at officers who had handcuffed its master. Officers appear to try to control the dog for several seconds and one makes a grab for the dog's leash before the dog jumps up and the shots ring out.
Witnesses can be heard crying out in distress after watching the dog's grisly death. The graphic video can be viewed here.
Fager urged the public to be patient as police investigate the shooting, and to avoid information being circulated through social media because "fallacies are being perpetuated."
Fager said department employees are being wrongly identified as the shooter on the Internet, and that has led to threats not only against employees, but to members of the public with similar names and no affiliation with the police.
About 40 kilometres away from Hawthorne, in Glendale, Swain's Art Supplies store was bombarded with about 100 angry phone calls from people who mistakenly believed the owners were related to Lt. Scott Swain, the Police Department's spokesman who wasn't involved in the shooting.
Co-owner Lori Wiest said she kept getting crazy questions, accusations and obscenity-laced tirades after blogs calling for Fager's dismissal posted the store's phone number, the Torrance Daily Breeze reported.
The dog's owner, Leon Rosby, says police needlessly killed his dog. His lawyer, Michael Gulden, said Rosby's complaint will be added to an existing lawsuit Rosby has against police.