MAYVILLE – Members of the Chautauqua County Legislature learned more about the incident surrounding the shooting death of Rocky – a 10 year old boxer – by a member of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office.
On Wednesday night the legislature held its monthly voting session and during the public comment portion of the meeting, Jamestown resident Joe Donisi, along with Buffalo-based Attorney Matt Albert addressed lawmakers about the death.
Donisi, who was Rocky’s owner, told lawmakers his dog was 10 years old and never hurt anyone prior to being shot by Deputy Robert Holcomb. He felt Holcomb overreacted to Rocky approaching him and could have handled the situation better.
“We had Rocky for 10 years and he always stands by my side. He frequently would walk up to strangers to welcome them. He loves people. He was a calm, loving, very important member of our family. For deputy Holcomb to say that Rocky would try to attack him, after 10 years of peacefulness and calmness, is a flat out lie.”
Donisi admits that he did not see the incident take place, and also that the shooting took place off his property and on the street, where Holcomb had parked his car to serve appearance papers to a neighbor. According to Donisi and published reports, Holcomb claimed the dog was charging him..
“I yelled to deputy Holcomb, ‘What in the _____ did you shoot my dog for?’ And he replied, ‘Because I thought he was going to attack me.’ I then said, ‘Why would you think that? He didn’t bark or growl.’ And he replied, ‘Well I wasn’t going to give him a chance to.'”
Attorney Matt Albert also spoke, saying that the shooting of Rocky is just the latest incident of law enforcement in Chautauqua County showing a disrespect to animals and pets.
“what you have here – and obviously not all Chautauqua County police are going around and shooting dogs – but you have a policing system that’s so bent upon raising revenue that they forget to protect and serve the citizens that they are sworn to,” Albert said. “And I think that allows people like Deputy Holcomb to do whatever he wants to do. He shoots what he wants to and [the system] allows him to get clear.”
Albert was also critical of how Rocky’s shooting is being investigated, saying it’s a conflict of interest to have the sheriff’s office investigate one of its own.
“Already in Sheriff Gerace’s investigation, all he’s done is say everything that Deputy Holcomb has told him, and recite that as fact – ‘oh this dog was vicious’ and ‘oh this dog was coming at me.’ It flies in the face of all credible evidence.”
Sheriff Joe Gerace was not in attendance at the meeting, but did speak with the Post-Journal and said the comments and accusations by Albert were “offensive, objectionable and disgusting.” Gerace said his deputy had to make a split second decision and did what he thought was best to protect himself. He also said that if Donisi had simply obeyed the leash law, the entire incident could have been avoided.
Both Donisi and Albert requested the legislature review and change the sheriff’s policy on how to deal with loose dogs, identifying other methods than just shooting and killing a loose dog that appears to be a threat. They also asked the legislature to consider supporting proposed legislation in Albany that would better benefit the safety and well-being of animals. And they asked for an independent investigation of Deputy Holcomb’s actions, other than just relying on what is determined by the sheriff’s office.
The County Legislature has a public safety committee and chairman PJ Wendell (R-Lakewood) said that the incident will likely be discussed in an upcoming meeting, although he fully supports and stands by the sheriff’s office.