News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014
GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WRDW) -- Malia Busbee of Graniteville admits she's still sick to her stomach after her neighbor's pit bull was shot and killed by an Aiken County deputy about a week before Christmas.
"It's a sad situation," she says. "I loved that dog, and I'm an animal lover. I can't help it. My mother was, and I am too. And I loved her."
A copy of the dashcam recording obtained by News 12 answers some questions.
The recording starts with Deputy Miller in his patrol car driving along Gregg Street toward Aiken Road. He approaches a couple individuals on the side of the street who are flagging him down and warning him of a vicious pit bull.
Miller writes in an incident report that he stopped to capture the dog after one of the pedestrians said he was attacked by the loose pit bull. In fact, a Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) report says three different people flagged down the deputy.
Minutes later, Deputy Miller approaches the dog in the parking lot of nearby Po-Boy's convenience store. Although the dashcam doesn't show it, his report says the dog charged his car, so he called for Aiken County Animal Control. After the deputy corrals the dog with his car for a few minutes, animal control arrives.
"How you want to go about this?" the deputy says to the animal control officer. "Who's doing the shooting? Me or you?"
With his microphone hot, Deputy Miller mentions shooting the dog before animal control even makes an attempt to catch it.
Captain Eric Abdullah with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office explains that, while the comment may sound bad out of context, it's a safety measure.
"The animal control officer has the catch pole in his hand, so both of his hands are tied up. So, someone has to protect him while they're out there on the scene, which this deputy was doing," he says.
Even though the dashcam is pointed away, the report says the animal control officer and the deputy then went to work and tried to capture the dog with a pole several times.
Miller continued making comments about shooting the dog.
"I'm fixing to shoot that dog. I just want you to know that. I don't play around with dogs," he says to the animal control officer.
"If he attacks me, go ahead," responds animal control.
"Oh, I'm going to light him up, Bo," Miller says back.
"Just let me know before you start firing," the animal control officer says.
"I won't hit you," says Miller.
Those comments leave Busbee speechless.
"Sounds to me like he was planning on killing her," she says. "That's exactly what it sounds like."
Moments later, the dog's owner comes out of her nearby home. She later told News 12 she wanted to get control of her dog.
"Go inside, ma'am!" says the deputy to the dog-owner. "I don't need you in the background as I start shooting."
Later in the video, it becomes clear that the deputy wasn't aware that the woman was the owner of the dog. Capt. Abdullah says he told her to go back inside to protect her.
Seconds after she returns to her home, the dog reportedly charges at the animal control officer, however, since the dashcam is pointed in a different direction, it is not visible.
Deputy Miller fires off a shot hitting the dog in the shoulder. The dog immediately begins crying out in distress. After a moment, Deputy Miller asks the animal control officer if he should put the dog down. He says yes, so Miller fires another shot that fatally strikes the pit bull in the head.
"The deputy did have to take those actions, and those actions were determined to be justified," Abdullah says.
Abdullah says some of the deputy's comments weren't professional, but he says Miller was protecting the animal control officer and the public. Again, Abdullah says the shooting was proper and justified.
Busbee sees things differently.
"I don't like to cause anybody harm, but they should have done something different with him," she says.
Deputy Miller wasn't reprimanded.
Capt. Abdullah says multiple eyewitnesses called the Sheriff's Office, even the sheriff himself, and verified that Deputy Miller was justified in killing the dog. One of them even submitted a statement saying the dog was routinely loose and routinely a nuisance.
"Witness further stated that in his opinion, the shooting was justified as the dog had made numerous attempts to lunge at the officers on scene and attempted to attack several times," it reads.
Unedited Dashcam Recording (GRAPHIC CONTENT):