Baltimore Officer Who Pulled Gun on Dog at Park Will Not be Disciplined
The City police officer did not violate any internal departmental or park policies when he pointed his weapon at a dog.
The off-duty Baltimore City police officer who pointed his gun at a dog and allegedly threatened to kill it at Annie’s Playground on March 12 will not be disciplined, said a spokesman for the Baltimore City Police Department.
“The [internal] command investigation was based on the information provided by the Harford County Sheriff's Office,” city police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi wrote in an email. “It was found that the officer did not violate departmental policy and acted lawfully, as indicated in the [Harford County Sheriff’s Office] report.”
The report stated that the officer, whose name has been withheld, “acted within the law to protect himself and family by drawing his weapon. No one was bitten or hurt in this incident.”
Patch has submitted a Public Information Act request for the officer’s identity. He is listed as the victim on the sheriff’s office report. Lisa Vecchioni, the woman listed as the suspect in the police report, said her dog was on a leash but that it got away to play with the officer’s dog, which was on a leash.
“He pulled the gun out immediately, didn’t even give a chance to see if the dog was friendly or not,” Vecchioni said.
The sheriff’s office report describes the dog as a “pitbull mix” weighing “approximately 80 pounds.”
But Vecchioni said her dog is a mutt, does not look like a pitbull and weighs 40 to 45 pounds. In an email to Patch she added she has “no way of finding out the breed of Rocky” because her son got him from a friend of a friend. But Rocky’s veterinarian believes the dog is a Labrador mix, she said.
[Click “View Gallery” on above picture for photos of the dog.]
“He had never identified himself as a police officer until I asked him what he was doing with a gun,” Vecchioni said.
Guglielmi said officers are not required to identify themselves before pulling a gun.
“I can’t give you a blanket answer and say every single time an officer draws his gun he has to say, ‘Police,’” Guglielmi said. “Nine-and-a-half times out of 10 they do, but there are situations that it’s not appropriate given the speed of those situations.”
The officer appears to have been within his right to carry a gun in a public park.
The Harford County Code prohibits the possession of firearms in county parks, except for “persons authorized by law to carry firearms in the discharge of their official duties,” as stated in Chapter 185-17.
"If [someone is] authorized by law to carry firearms in the discharge of their official duties then they can have a gun," County Attorney Robert McCord said. "Whether or not that’s appropriate for him to pull the gun out is not really covered by this section of the code."
The code, in Chapter 185-6 C, also states that, “No person shall: Cause or permit any dog, cat or other domesticated animal to run at large or to create a nuisance."
“Harford County law states any dog, as soon as it crosses over the line where it’s off of its property it either needs to be on a leash or under command with its owner,” said Valerie Surkin, a clerk at Harford County Animal Control. “The dog has to be obedient to the owner’s command immediately. … As long as it is under command it does not have to be on a leash.”
Surkin said she recommends using pepper spray on a charging dog, as opposed to a gun.
“We don’t advise [using a gun],” she said. “Especially in different areas where you’re not allowed to discharge one.”
Harford County Recreation Specialist Mike Getz said the rules about dogs are clear.
“Basically all of our parks have signs that say dogs must be on a leash or under control of an owner,” Getz said. “When you get to the parking lot [at Annie’s] and walk down to the playground there’s a sign.”
Baltimore City police officers are not required to carry their gun while off-duty, but it is not prohibited either, according to regulations.
“Sworn members when off-duty, outside the jurisdiction of the City of Baltimore and within the State of Maryland, are authorized to carry an issued or approved firearm. There is no requirement to be armed when off-duty outside the City of Baltimore,” the firearm regulations state.
The regulations also state that officers must, “Comply with all Baltimore Police Department Rules and Regulations pertaining to firearms, as well as all appropriate Federal, State and local laws relating to firearms.”
Guglielmi wrote in an email that city police are issued .40-caliber Glocks, which matches the description of the officer’s gun given by a witness of the incident at Annie’s Playground.
“I saw a Glock. I think it was a .40 caliber. I don’t know for a fact,” said Jack Megert, 12, of Perry Hall. “It was silver and black. The rectangle on the side was silver and then the rest of the gun was black.”
A duty officer at Maryland State Police headquarters said a Baltimore City police officer’s option to carry a firearm outside of his jurisdiction overrides any local law pertaining to parks.
“[It’s] because he’s still technically a police officer in this state,” Cpl. Darryl Clark said.
One local attorney said the law governing guns in parks could be interpreted to say that police officers can carry their guns while on duty.
“It does seem that the ordinance would prohibit him from carrying it in a place on parks and rec [property]," said Augustus Brown, of Brown, Brown & Young.
But, Brown added, "There's no clear cut answer on it." The officer, he said, has a "good argument" that it is part of his official duty to be available at all times.
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office report states that the officer was with his wife, child, mother-in-law and his mother-in-law’s dog. The officer told police that the dog began to “charge his family.” It also states that Vecchioni said the gun was never pointed at her, but Vecchioni said that is not true.
“My dog did not even approach toward them. He was going over the other side where this other dog was,” she said. “If he really felt that his [child was] in any kind of [danger] I would think that he would grab his child first before he pulled a gun out.”
Vecchioni added that the woman with the officer’s dog was swinging it in circles a “couple inches” off the ground.
“My dog’s trying to chase it,” Vecchnioni said. “He had a gun pointed at my dog, I had to cross between my dog and him with the gun pointed at my dog. … It was definitely pointed at me.”
Vecchioni said she then called the police while the officer went to the parking lot.
“He had a few words to say to me,” she said. “He was just being very arrogant about who he was and why he pulled his gun out.”