Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Police shoot dog that allegedly bit 2 lawmen

A dog that reportedly bit a policeman during a domestic battery investigation last year was shot dead Wednesday night by a detective during a drug raid at the same house, according to Key West police reports.

Buddie, a 5-year-old pit bull terrier mix, was shot in the head by Detective Michael Chaustit, who reportedly fired one bullet from his .45-caliber service handgun while the dog's mouth was clamped down on his left hand -- requiring three stitches at Lower Keys Medical Center. A veterinarian euthanized the dog at the scene about an hour later, reports say.

During a 9 p.m. raid at 1015 South St., Chaustit and federal agents went to a room where they reportedly heard a dog barking and a man's voice. When Chaustit opened the door -- the tenant alleges they kicked it down -- the dog charged at him, reports say. Chaustit reportedly took several steps back and made room for the dog to escape, but the dog "did not use the open path of escape" and jumped and bit his hand instead.

Fearing further bodily harm, Chaustit said he placed his Glock handgun against the dog's head and fired one round, causing the dog to drop to the floor.

The raid turned up no arrests and only a small amount of marijuana -- 1.2 grams, or about a joint's worth -- as well as two pipes, a grinder, a scale and some baggies containing marijuana residue, reports say.

Tenant and dog owner Aaron Paul Strickland, 28, was given a notice to appear in court for possession of drug paraphernalia, and his roommate, David Tuten, 22, was cited for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The raid was conducted by members of the city's Special Operations Unit, federal Drug Enforcement Agency and federal Homeland Security Investigations. The city's unit regularly works alongside federal agents in drug investigations, city/police spokeswoman Alyson Crean said.

The same dog bit Officer Curtiss Richardson in the forearm in August while officers were investigating a possible domestic disturbance at the same house, reports say. Richardson attempted to use his Taser on the dog when it jumped and bit him, causing the Taser prongs to miss the dog and hit Richardson's own leg, reports say.

Strickland was arrested in that incident and charged with two felony counts of battery on a police officer and obstructing an officer. He is currently on probation, he said.

The incidents in August and on Wednesday have left Strickland frustrated, he said. He claims he does not do drugs and that police lacked probable cause to raid his house, much less kill his dog.

Strickland lives with five other roommates and was not home when the raid occurred Wednesday. When he arrived and police informed him why they were there, he said he was comfortable that there were no drugs in the house, though he added he couldn't fully account for his roommates' possessions.

Strickland claims none of the marijuana or paraphernalia were found in his room or in his possession.

"They said they found weed in our trash," Strickland said, adding it couldn't have been much, because he lives in the house and would be aware of drug activity.

Instead, Strickland said he feels he's become a victim of police harassment. He added that police knew his dog was in the house, from their first incident in August and by their own admission when they heard the dog barking Wednesday night.

"A judge found enough probable cause to issue a search warrant," Crean countered. "Our detectives took their suspicions to a judge and she [county Judge Peary Fowler] found sufficient reason to issue the warrant."

Both Strickland and Tuten are scheduled to appear before Fowler on Jan. 19.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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