MISHAWAKA – Owners of a dog shot and killed by a Mishawaka police officer say her death could have been prevented.
Police say the dog attacked an officer investigating a report of people smoking pot at Battell Park Sunday night.
"I tried pulling her back, trying to control her. He wouldn't stop yelling, so she slipped out of my hands," explained Austin Earley, whose family has had Asia, a 16-year-old pitbull mix, since she was a puppy.
Earley was at Battell Park hanging out with some friends when he says a Mishawaka police officer came running at them, screaming and spooking Asia, who he was holding on a leash.
"All of a sudden I hear, ‘Get on the ground, get on the ground,’ for no reason," Early said.
Police say the officer was investigating a complaint of some people at the park smoking marijuana when he was attacked by the dog.
"He was bit here (pointing to the outer part of the left leg) and on the inside of the groin on his right leg. So, he has multiple bites," said Mishawaka Police Public Information Officer Lt. Tim Williams.
Earley says the officer fired three shots at Asia, killing her.
"He protected himself, I understand that."
But Earley argues the cop should have approached the group more calmly.
"He would not have gotten hurt and we would still have our family dog," a dog Early's niece, 17-year-old Meagan Davis, grew up with.
"I was up all night crying. She was like a family member. She never was violent," said Davis.
The case is being investigated, and for now, the police department stands behind the officer's actions.
"That's a tragic event to have to go through for anybody. Unfortunately that had to happen," said Lt. Williams.
Under Mishawaka City Code, a pit bull is considered a dangerous animal and is supposed to be on a leash and muzzled out in public.
Asia was not.
The department is refusing to release the officer's name, pending the outcome of the investigation.
However, he was treated at the hospital Sunday night and was released.
Earley's family is waiting for the dog's remains to be released to them, pending rabies testing so she can be buried.
Earley says after his dog was killed, police searched him, and he was let go.
He denies he or anyone in his group were doing drugs.
Police did make one arrest in connection with this case.
Officers arrested Earley's brother after he came to the park after learning the dog had been killed.
He became irate with police and is in jail charged with intimidation of a police officer.