I was headed down to the craft fair at the end of Newport Avenue in O.B. on Saturday, December 12, at around 2:30 p.m., hoping to get a little Christmas shopping done. Instead, I came upon a scene with 7 police cars and 12 SDPD officers trying to control a rather large crowd that had gathered on the sidewalk next to the fair.
As soon as I started asking people what was going on, they all had a version of what started as a dog-bites-dog story that turned even uglier.
Ed Baier, a freelance cameraman had been on the scene since right after it occurred at about noon. He told me, "I heard that a homeless kid with a bull terrier came upon two women with what looked like a black border collie and there was tension between the two dogs. Both dogs were on a leash. The kid handled it like a responsible dog owner and no dog bit the other dog."
According to Marna Cahn, a vendor at the craft fair, "One man in an O.B. Elementary School T-shirt is the one that got the crowd very riled up by shouting, "Call the cops, it's an aggressive breed!" She said this was before any cops had arrived on the scene.
While no one I encountered at the scene claimed to have seen the altercation, no one wanted to give me their name, yet they all had plenty of opinions on how the police handled the situation. Several of the “traveler” kids (they all looked to be in their early 20s) told me that the police are the ones who made it get out of hand.
"It wasn't even that big of a deal,” said one of the 20-somethings. The dogs never fought and I know the kid that owned the dog and the dog is really sweet.” Another said, "People were yelling at the cops to leave him alone and the cops overreacted."
A homeless kid named Anthony stated, "The police did not handle this well. I saw that cop push an old lady to the ground as the crowd was growing." He pointed to the sergeant in charge, Hurtado Jr. When I asked the officer what happened, he said, "I don't know, I wasn't here when it happened." He declined to make any further statements.
Baier said, "The cops called animal control, who took about an hour to get down here. Since there was blood drawn, they had to follow the civil code."
At this point, I was confused about who had bled.
Russell Hart, a vendor at the fair, said, “The dog bit the kid [his owner] after the incident, when the kid was on top of his own dog trying to protect him from being taken. His own dog bit him and drew blood and that's when the cops got very forceful with him and he was arrested."
California Civil Code Sec. 3342 states, “The dog owner is strictly liable for any dog bite while the victim is in a public place or lawfully in a private place, regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s viciousness or the dog’s past history of viciousness."
Cahn also said, "I saw the kid that owned the dog lying down on his dog and crying and screaming hysterically to the police and animal control to not take his dog. Animal control put his dog in a noose and the kid went crazy. The police then threw the kid hard down onto the pavement and arrested him. It was way too aggressive.…
"At one point, many of the homeless traveler kids surrounded the animal-control vehicle hoping they could remove their friend's dog from the truck," Russell said, "It was shameful the way the police handled the situation. It became out of control because too many of them showed up and they were very aggressive."
Anthony said, "There was a lot of blood from the bite on the kid's ear, I was helping him soak it up with a towel."