However, September 11, 2014 was not like any other day. On this early evening, the sound of two gun shots burst through the air, causing parents to grab their terrified children and hurry inside.
According to eyewitness Amber Hobbs, a man and woman were walking their dog when a 75 pound pit pull terrier mix named Titus came up to greet them. What happened next shocked her. "No threat was present when the man pulled his gun out and shot the other dog!" Hobbs said. "Then he leaned over the dog and shot it in the head! Children were all out in the neighborhood, including my niece and nephew. The owners of (Titus) came out to call their dog and saw him dead. All the shooter said was, "That's your dog?" The owners were of course hysterical."
The owner of Titus was Nicholas "Nick" Blazek, a young man with big brown eyes who works as a machinist. He had loved his faithful companion since Titus was a puppy. Blazek lived with his girlfriend, Sarah Slane, a pretty woman in her twenties with long red hair and an infectious smile. In an interview with Tulsa World, Blazek recalled Titus as a "friendly dog who would sleep in bed with them." As they stared in horror at their dead dog on the street, it was clear to neighbors that they had lost a family member.
|Slane and Blazek (photo courtesy of Facebook)|
|Titus with a family friend. (photo courtesy of Slane's Facebook)|
Titus was gunned down by an off-duty police officer who Slane states she had not seen in the neighborhood prior to the shooting. On Slane's Facebook, she states that the officer's name is Adam Lovell, but the Tulsa Police Department ("TPD") has not confirmed this. Because the name of the shooter was not released publicly, I was unable to locate him to obtain his statement.
Although owners Blazek and Slane did not see the shooting, another eyewitness came forward to share a story similar to Hobb's. Grant Holm, told Tulsa World that he saw Titus run towards the off-duty police officer with "his tail wagging." Holm said to Tulsa World, "Titus went to the (officer's) large dog and appeared to be greeting the other animal from a submissive posture with its head down. The officer pulled on his dog’s leash, rearing the animal up onto its hind legs. Titus then moved to fill the void created by the officer pulling on the leash. The man, as smooth as you please, reached behind him, pointed (a handgun), put it up to the dog and shot it in the head or neck area, and Titus immediately went down. As Titus lay in the grass, moving his legs and yelping, he (the officer) bent down, aimed at it and shot it in the head with everybody in shock." Like Hobbs, Holm said that the shooting frightened the neighbors and that the officer didn't ask any questions before pulling out his gun.
|The alleged shooter (photo courtesy of Slane's FB)|
After the off-duty police officer was let go, Blazek and Slane on the other hand were issued a citation for animal at large. The reason being that Titus had escaped their yard. Slane said, "The off-duty officer said absolutely nothing to us. He wouldn't give us his name or any info. There were no apologies or a flicker of emotion. The officers that showed up on the scene were rude and automatically on his side. They didn't want to listen to us or our witnesses, but when it came to hearing him they all surrounded him and gave him time to explain."
Blazek and Slane were devastated by the loss of Titus, and the next day, Friday, September 12, they filed a complaint with the police department's internal affairs. "This is a Tulsa Police Department problem," Slane said. "He is a crazy, trigger happy officer. If he wasn't being looked at as an officer, but as a civilian, then why wasn't he arrested or charged with unlawful use of his weapon as city ordinance states? We hope that they (the Tulsa Police Department) do their job properly and follow through with criminal charges, remove him from the police department, and that he is not able to bare arms again. We plan to file a civil suit if internal affairs doesn't follow through with justice."
Although it is not being implied that a life of an animal is equivalent to a life of a human being, this story eerily echoes the stories of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri and Trayvon Martin of Sanford, Florida. In all three cases, men shot and killed because of perceived threats in situations that witnesses state did not warrant gun fire. The Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cases were divisive in America because of their racial nature, and some chose to see Brown or Martin not as unarmed victims but as "thugs" who appeared dangerous. Like Titus, these victims were guilty of nothing but looking a certain way and coming across the wrong person; and like Titus, despite witness accounts, the law tended to favor the word of the shooter instead of the voices of the witnesses.
Overall, these shooting show how fear can spring from anything and that no person is truly safe because unnecessary fear in the hands of those with guns can lead to unnecessary violence. And the scary thing about these three situations is that the three shooters supposedly were devoted to "serve and protect," but if they are so quick with their guns, who will protect the citizens from them?
Before the incident, Slane respected the police, but now she views them with suspicion. "I have always stood up for the police, gave them respect, and felt they were here to serve us; but that is no longer how I feel," she said. "We are in fear they have doctored all they can to protect their own, we are in fear of "unexplained harassment," and we are always looking over our shoulder now; and it's a shame to fear the ones we should fear the least."
Officer Leland Ashley, a media representative of the Tulsa Police Department (TPD), stated on Monday September 15 that the off-duty police officer was not put on administrative leave because of this incident and that the case is not being investigated further. "The officer was off duty (a citizen) who stated he felt threatened when he shot the dog. His actions were not TPD related," Ashley said.
So it appears that Blazek and Slane will not see justice for Titus, at least not from the police department. While NFL players like Ray Rice, who commit domestic violence, can be removed from their positions because of their actions in their personal life; apparently that is not the case for a police officer that has such a fearful temperament that he would open fire in a neighborhood full of children to protect himself from a happy-go-lucky dog. Regardless of being on or off duty, the police department should investigate his gun use.
Because the officer has not been identified, the community in Tulsa will just have to wait and hope that the shooter will not "feel threatened" again. But the main question here is: when will he finally be held accountable? If video emerges of the Titus incident? If he takes the life of a human being? Or if concerned citizens contact Tulsa Police Department's Internal Affairs themselves, asking for them to consider the danger of allowing an officer with poor judgment to wear a badge? If you are one of those concerned citizens and want to act now, please click here and let TPD know that you want justice for Titus and that you want Tulsa to be a safer place.
|The ticket issued to Blazek courtesy of Blazek's Facebook|