People attending a community event in Columbus, Ohio on April 28 witnessed sheriff deputies in action during a community event that ended with a dog shot dead in front of the court house and the owner under arrest. A loose dog attacked a member of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit named Vando, a 4-year-old German Shepherd trained in explosive detection.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the State Patrol Office had a display open to the public that included Vando as well as a SWAT vehicle on the sidewalk outside the courthouse. A crowd that included children had gathered. According to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, “at approximately 12:50 pm today, K9 Vando was attacked by another dog in downtown Columbus.”
Vando was being petted members of the public at the time. An eyewitness, Joe Meachum told TV10 that, “I was standing right next to the officer and his dog, petting his dog, Vando and I saw that pit bull out of the corner of my eye without a leash, ran up on Vando and tried to attack him. They were mouth to mouth.” Meachum noted, “The officer pulled out his gun and shot the pit bull in his back left hip, and then the dog whined for a second, walked away limping, and came back to fight some more and the officer shot him three more times.”
Video from 10TV shows that when the shots were fired children immediately came out from the SWAT vehicle. The video only shows the incident from a distance.
According to media reports, there is no leash law in Columbus, but dogs must be under the control of their owners. The pit bull’s owner, Arron Slate, had an open warrant for criminal trespass. He was taken into custody and was also charged with failing to control is dog and assault on a police dog.
Members of the public have been critical of the shooting, asking why a taser wasn’t used or why the attacking dog wasn’t tranquilized. Comments on the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page both support and condemn the actions of the deputies. A couple of comments mentioned Ava Ellis.
In the Ava Ellis case, an officer of the Columbus Division of Police was at a residence. On June 19, 2015, Officer Jonathan Thomas fired his gun while investigating a hit-and-run case at about 3:10 p.m. according to a report by the Columbus Dispatch. Thomas was returning to his patrol car when he was asked by Brandie Kelly to help her sister, Andrea Ellis who had cut herself. When Thomas went to the Ellis residence, he was charged by two dogs. A bullet hit the then four-year-old Ava Ellis, Andrea’s daughter, in the right leg. It is unclear if the bullet was a direct or a ricochet hit. Andrea Ellis had written her own account of this particular incident on a Prayers for Ava Facebook page. The last entry on that Facebook page is on August 29, 2015 when there was an entry asking for prayers, get well cards and money through Paypal or a now defunct GoFundMe campaign. Ava’s mother last left comments in October. No dogs were injured.
Both shootings took place in Columbus but involved different agencies. Vando was taken to MedVet and was cleared to be back on duty.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Canine Unit is part of the Patrol Bureau and consists of seven deputy and dog partners. Vando is handled by Sergeant Aaron Heflin, a 13-year-old veteran of the Franklin Sheriff’s Office. The K9 unit are involved in tracking criminal suspects, lost persons, evidence, recovery, bomb and drug detection and other general patrol duties. Heflin and Vando have been together for three years. The shooting is under review.