Pit Bull Still Alive, Had History of Attacks (Plus: New Video From Scene of Shooting)

Video of the aftermath of the shooting. Larissa Udovik, who was nearly bitten, can be seen berating the police.

For once, the police and crusties can agree on something. The pit bull shot yesterday on 14th Street in front of dozens of horrified onlookers had it coming.

Brandon Verna, a homeless man acquainted with the owner of the dog, identified by police as Lech Stankiewicz, said that the pit bull has a reputation for being overly protective of her master.

“Most of us figured out that when he’s passed out, whether he’s overdosing or not, leave him alone,” Mr. Verna said. “If he’s going to die, call an ambulance and have them deal with it because no one wants to get bitten.”

Mary Catherine McSweeney, Brandon Verna and Kilo.Melvin Felix Mary Catherine McSweeney, Brandon Verna
and Kilo.

A police source said that a video of the encounter leaves no question that the officers acted properly.

“It was a very dangerous situation. The shooting was completely justified,” the source said.

A recent attack by the dog, Star, augured yesterday’s shocking episode. While walking last month along 14th Street, Mr. Verna came upon Mr. Stankiewicz passed out on the same block where he was found unconscious yesterday.

Mr. Verna, who was walking with a cane at the time because he was hit by a bus in June, tried to rouse Mr. Stankiewicz who was lying in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts. “He was sprawled out in the middle of the sidewalk turning blue,” Mr. Verna, 26, said. “I hit him with my cane in the foot and said, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to get up. The cops are going to come.'”

That’s when Star jumped up and bit him in the knee.

“I pulled away, it was so quick. But usually she doesn’t nip, she’ll lock her jaw,” he said, adding that Mr. Stankiewicz, 29, is homeless and has a problem with drugs and alcohol. “So I had to throw my hands up at that point.”

But the four officers on the scene yesterday didn’t have the luxury of walking away.

While they tried to establish a perimeter around the frightened dog and its owner, Larissa Udovik took it upon herself to tame Star.

“One woman in her 50 or 60s decided she was an animal lover. That’s how she described herself to investigators,” the source said. “She felt she could walk up to the dog and determine what was going on without agitating it. Well, that didn’t work.”

The dog snapped at her and missed, causing one of the officers to make a move that caught Star’s attention. The dog charged the officer standing roughly 15 feet away, undeterred by mace sprayed by one of the other officers. “He literally had two seconds — the dog was coming right at him,” the source said. “He fired one round, and the dog falls at his feet.”

“It’s very difficult to hit a dog, believe it or not,” the source later added. “It would have bitten him pretty seriously.”

Two of the officers were taken to hospital as a precautionary measure. “They were both a little upset,” the source said. “They’re both young guys on the job. They did what they had to do.”

Mr. Stankiewicz was arrested for an open warrant related to an open container charge, a police spokesman said. The Police Department does not intend to release the video of the shooting. (Update | 6:10 p.m. Gothamist scored the video).

Astonishingly, Star is still alive. A spokesman for Animal Care and Control said the dog is in “stable condition.” The police source was a little less optimistic, though: “Last time we checked it was still alive, though the prognosis wasn’t very good.”

Gothamist cited a detailed medical report on the dog, and reported that it was being treated at a facility on East 110th Street.

It is unclear if the dog will be returned to its owner, should it survive.

This is not the first time Star has been a victim of violence.

Mary Catherine McSweeney said Mr. Stankiewicz had adopted Star from a shelter and that the dog had been abused by her previous owners. Mr. Stankiewicz showered the dog with love.

“She was super protective of her owner,” Ms. McSweeney said. “The dog has bitten multiple people that we know just because they were near him while he was sleeping.”

Generally, the dogs that belong to the nomadic punks — often called crusties — who pass through East Village every summer aren’t bothering people, the police source said. Last month, The Local profiled one of the mutts.

“With all the complaints we get about the young travelers or whatever you want to call them — we haven’t received any complaints that their dogs are causing problems,” said the source.

But Ms. McSweeney had her fair share of complaints about Star.

“She’s bitten a bunch of our friends,” she said. “But now the first time it bites a yuppie, they shoot it? It shows that they’re not really there to protect and serve. They just protect and serve the rich.”

Mr. Verna, who owns a six-year-old pit bull named Kilo, said police wouldn’t have shot the dog if it belonged to a wealthy person. He looked at Kilo, whom he said he rescued from a fighting ring in Detroit, and stroked the fur on her head.

“She’s my little lady,” he said. “I love her so much.”