Dog Owner Claims Police Shot at Her During Arrest for Walking Without Leash
CONEY ISLAND — A Brooklyn dog owner says a scaredy-cat police officer fired his gun at her and her gentle giant of a pooch after coming to her apartment to arrest her for walking the furry companion without a leash.
Elizabeth Villafane, 37, is suing the NYPD, accusing the officer and his partner of recklessly squeezing off a round and falsely cuffing her after the bizarre incident.
The mother of three who lives in a NYCHA building in Coney Island claims in the lawsuit that a plainclothes officer knocked on her door at 6 a.m. on Aug. 13 to execute a warrant for her arrest for a violation she had previously received for failing to leash one of her pets.
Villafane had been expecting her brother, who was going to drive her mother to the airport for a trip to the Dominican Republic. She said since she assumed the doorknock was from her brother, she opened the door with Bubba, her 4-year-old bullmastiff, by her side.
"Bubba is a greeter. Every time I open the door, he wants to go out and smell whoever is there," Villafane told DNAinfo New York.
But the 115-pound hound apparently startled the officer, who ran down the building hallway. Then Bubba took after the officer, with Villafane chasing after the dog to grab him.
"The worst thing you can do with Bubba is run because he thinks you want to play," Villafane said.
When a second officer farther down the hallway spotted the canine, he got out his revolver, according to the lawsuit. Seeing the drawn gun, Villafane wrapped her arms around Bubba — but the officer still fired one to two shots at them, the lawsuit says.
Luckily for Villafane and her dog, the officer’s aim was off. The bullet hit a lighting fixture in the hallway’s ceiling and ricocheted to the ground, according to the lawsuit filed Dec. 17 in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Villafane said she can't understand why the officer shot at her, noting that Bubba looks tough but is a real pussycat.
"He's the biggest mush on the planet," she said. "He looks scary — that's his job — but he is the biggest mush."
After the shooting, the officers allegedly pepper sprayed Villafane and Bubba.
"[The officer] kept saying, 'You let the dog out on me,'" Villafane recalled.
The officers cuffed her and hauled her into court, but a judge dismissed the leash violation and other charges related to her arrest, the lawsuit says.
“The dog didn't go to attack the officer,” Villafane’s lawyer, Harvey A. Levine, told DNAinfo New York. “My client is lucky as hell she wasn’t shot. She suffered some severe psychological damage.”
Villafane said Bubba is well-known in the apartment building, and kids love him.
"Now every time he sees someone in uniform, I need to keep him on a tight leash because he's very protective," she said.
City Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci declined to comment on the lawsuit’s claims.
“These are allegations at this point. We will review the complaint,” he said.