The weekend shooting of an aggressive pit bull at a Kirkland park appears to fall well within the guidelines of self-defense under this state’s statutes, and the incident has ignited a furious debate about dangerous dogs.
The case, according to Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, underscores why his organization fought to nullify Seattle’s illegal parks gun ban. The State Court of Appeals is now mulling that case. Joining SAF in that lawsuit were the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the National Rifle Association, Washington Arms Collectors, and five local residents.
The city lost the first round in King County Superior Court and appealed. Oral arguments before the State Court of Appeals were held in March.
KOMO News broke the story about the Kirkland incident, which occurred Saturday afternoon at Juanita Beach Park. The man who fired the shot, identified as Tim Lewis of Kirkland, drew his legally-concealed handgun and shot one of three pit bulls that had attacked Lewis’ German shepherd unprovoked. Kirkland police are investigating. A spokesman for the King County Prosecutor’s Office indicated that it is legal to shoot an attacking dog in defense of life or, in this case, property, that being Lewis’ pet.
“If I didn’t have my gun – I’d be dead right now.”—Tim Lewis, dog owner.
The pit bull owner, identified as Justin LaValley of Seattle, had a different opinion, contending that Lewis did not have to fire. His remarks, along with Lewis’, can be seen on KOMO’s video here. The Kirkland Reporter also covered the story, and KIRO’s midday talk jock Dori Monson led with remarks about the shooting Monday at noon..
One witness, Charles McLennan, told KOMO that “If (Lewis) didn’t have that gun, he would probably be dead.”
The incident set off a tidal wave of public responses. As this column was being written, nearly 500 comments had been left on KOMO’s web site.
As Gottlieb observed, “There are many reasons why law-abiding citizens would want to be armed in a public park, and the Kirkland incident typifies one of the best. Aggressive dogs can launch an attack without warning. They could seriously injure an adult or child.”
“If he didn’t have that gun, he would probably be dead.”—Charles McLennan, witness
The shooting has gotten the attention of Washington Open Carry advocates, who recall the Seattle lawsuit. It is also reminiscent of a case this column discussed about two months ago involving a retired Cincinnati police lieutenant now living in Indiana. He simply fired a shot to scare off a dog that had him by the leg., and he was prosecuted for it, and won in court.
Complicating matters in Kirkland is the fact that all of the dogs appear to have been off leash, and in this park, that’s not allowed. Kirkland police are checking with King County Animal Control on that issue.
MEANWHILE, Tacoma police are investigating a double-shooting this morning that left one burglary suspect dead and another one wounded.
According to sparse accounts in the Seattle P-I and Tacoma News Tribune, a homeowner heard noises in his garage, grabbed a handgun and went to investigate. When he confronted the burglars at gunpoint, they charged at him and he fired.
As with the Kirkland shooting, this one is being investigated by the police, but this state’s lethal force self-defense statute is remarkably clear:
Homicide is also justifiable when committed either:
(1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or
(2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he is.—RCW 9A.16.050
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