Tracy Police Department Chief Gary Hampton confirmed Wednesday, Oct. 10, that an officer ran over and killed a Chihuahua on the 400 block of Kavanagh Avenue on Sunday at about 9:45 a.m.
According to Capt. James Watney, who also spoke about the incident Wednesday, the unleashed dog ran “straight out into the street,” and into the path of the officer’s cruiser.
The officer only stopped after becoming aware the dog was hit, Watney said.
Hampton declined to identify the officer but confirmed there is an internal review by the department regarding the dog being killed. He also said the arrest will be reviewed, though he had not received a formal citizen complaint as of Thursday evening.
If the review leads to a formal investigation, however, Hampton said state law would not permit him to discuss it.
Michael Garcia, 29, said he witnessed the incident while working on his dirt bike in the front yard of his Kavanagh Avenue home.
Garcia said the officer didn’t appear that he was going to stop after hitting the dog, so Garcia said he flagged the officer down.
According to Garcia, the two exchanged words, with Garcia admonishing the officer for hitting the animal.
The officer then drove to where the dog was, Garcia said, as the owner walked over and picked up the dead animal.
At that point, Garcia said he yelled at the owner in Portuguese that it was the officer who had run over the dog.
The officer then drove toward Garcia and asked if he had a problem, according to Garcia.
“I said, ‘Yeah I got a problem. You’re a cop, and you just hit and run a dog, pretty much,’” he said Thursday.
After what Garcia described as an exchange of insults, the officer exited his car and was shaking as he approached him, Garcia said.
“I instantly sat down on my driveway, Indian style, and he reached for his Billy club,” Garcia said.
He then reportedly reacted by standing up and telling the officer that he hadn’t done anything wrong. However, Garcia said the officer then put the club away and told him that he was under arrest.
The officer then allegedly grabbed Garcia’s shirt, Garcia said, to which Garcia said he reacted by jumping away.
That movement was the basis for a resisting arrest charge, Garcia said.
“I’m not resisting anything — tell me my charges,” he said he told the officer.
Garcia was pepper-sprayed during the exchange, according to the Tracy police log. Watney and Hampton each said that Garcia was also charged with threatening the officer.
Luciano Leonardo, a neighbor to Garcia, said Garcia was pepper-sprayed while lying in his driveway.
Hampton was not able to say if Garcia was sprayed while lying on the ground or speak to the specific incident, because he had not received all information regarding the arrest.
In general, however, Hampton said pepper-spraying a person on the ground is not necessarily excessive force. He said that, depending on the circumstance, someone could be in handcuffs and pepper-sprayed within the parameters of acceptable police conduct.
“There’s all kinds of scenarios,” he said, saying he would withhold judgment on Garcia’s case for the time being.
“I just want to make sure I remain objective,” Hampton said.
Garcia said he felt wronged.
“I don’t feel like I did anything wrong, and I still don’t feel like I did anything wrong,” Garcia said Thursday.
“I swear to God he did not threaten (the officer),” Leonardo said.
Garcia said he was held in San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp from Sunday to Wednesday, when he said he entered pleas to the two misdemeanor charges at the court hearing in the Manteca branch of San Joaquin County Superior Court.
But Garcia insisted Thursday he did nothing to warrant being pepper-sprayed and arrested.
He only entered the plea, he said, to get back to his job, and because his lawyer was not present at his court hearing after confusion regarding the time of his appearance.
“If (my attorney) was there, I would have had the whole case dismissed,” Garcia said. “It’s not right, it’s not justice.”
Garcia added that “I never threatened (the officer), I never attacked him, I never lunged toward him, nothing. No way. I’m not stupid.”
He described his ordeal as “like a bad dream.”
Hampton said the internal review of the officer running over the dog is a routine measure “any time we have community members speaking out about (officer conduct).”
Hampton, who said he is a pet owner, called it a “tragedy” that someone’s family pet was killed, and that it was appropriate to find out how it happened.
Garcia said he might take his arrest up with City Hall.