Police shoot family dog while searching for gun suspect

Bella the pit bull's tan dog bed now sits empty.

Lying on a garage floor sprinkled with blood splatter, the empty bed reminds the Guzman family that Bella was shot and killed by a Victoria police officer on Monday night.

"My dog died doing what she was supposed to do, protecting me and my babies," Jacob Guzman, one of the dog's owners, said Tuesday.

Two-year-old Bella was shot when a Victoria police officer entered the Guzmans' garage at 1710 E. Rosebud Ave. while searching for a discarded gun.

At 7:16 p.m., officers were dispatched to the Guzmans' neighborhood to look for a man who was reportedly walking down the street with a gun in his right pocket, said Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure.

"Police confirmed there had been several acts of criminal mischief in the area where a pistol shaped like a BB gun had been used," Ure said. "If someone carries an object that is designed to look like a handgun, our officers will treat that as a real gun."

Upon locating the suspect, the first officer on the scene witnessed the suspect take something out of his pocket and throw it toward a garage door that was partially open.

After a second officer arrived, one officer detained the 18-year-old suspect while the other officer went to look for the possibly discarded gun.

The officers' names were not released.

While searching for the gun, the officer peered underneath the partially open garage door and saw Jacob Guzman and the gun, which at first glance, appeared to be a Sig semi-automatic handgun, according to the officer's report.

He also heard a dog barking loudly.

The Guzman family described the gun owner as a family acquaintance, but said they did not know why he chose to throw the gun in their garage.

After the garage door was lifted, the officer saw Bella attached to a dumbbell weight in the middle of the floor and visibly upset.

He instructed Jacob Guzman to put the barking Bella inside the house.

Guzman followed the officer's instructions, but soon after, a 7-year-old family member inadvertently opened the house door, enabling Bella to re-enter the garage,

The officer's report indicated Guzman was unable to restrain Bella, who came charging toward the officer growling and snarling with her head twisted sideways in an attempt to bite.

The officer shot Bella, who was within inches of biting him.

Six children, ranging in ages from 1 to 8, witnessed the shooting from inside the Guzman house.

"They are traumatized, wanting to know why she was shot in the garage," said Maria Guzman, one of Bella's owners.

"We certainly wish that the Guzman's dog hadn't got shot. Unfortunately, our officer was left without any options," said Ure, adding that animals are occasionally harmed while officers investigate crimes. "You have to remedy these situations quickly and safely."

The family and neighbors said the officer shot Bella a total of three times.

After being shot, Bella ran to her front porch and clawed to get inside, Jacob Guzman said.

She died shortly afterward on the porch.

Ure contends the officer followed correct procedure in handling the situation.

The Guzman family, who raised Bella since she was 2 days old, was upset over the officer's actions.

"She's aggressive, but she was on her own property," said Maria Guzman. "He shot her for protecting her family."

Maria said the problems could have been avoided by not going into the garage in the first place.

"There should have been a different type of procedure," said Maria Guzman, who cried as she held Bella's brown collar. "If he heard her barking, why not just come to the front door?"

Her son expressed similar sentiments

By all accounts, the Guzmans described Bella as a loving, well-mannered dog that loved children and never attacked anyone.

The Guzmans said they are not looking for compensation from the police department for their loss, but providing another dog would be a nice and welcomed gesture.

The BB gun owner was not arrested and was released at the scene.