ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -A St. Petersburg police officer fatally shot a German shepherd while trying to detain a man near Williams Park on Thursday night.
Police say 21-year-old Kenneth McNeil had been given a warning to stay out of the downtown St. Petersburg park. He was walking the dog Thursday night and allegedly ignored an officer's demand to stop.
Police say McNeil then let the dog loose and that 29-year-old Officer Steven Laurenzi fired several shots, killing the animal.
The police department has new rules in effect since 2012, after a number of dogs were shot and killed by police.
Internal Affairs is investigating this latest shooting, but the department believes it was justified because the suspect allegedly released the dog and it created a threat to the officers.
Police spokesman Mike Puetz says there are newer training procedures in place since eight dogs were shot and killed by police officers in 2011. That rash of shootings created backlash from the community. The department says unfortunately, there are some circumstances in which force must be used, and this apparently was one of them.
McNeil is being held on charges of trespassing and resisting arrest with violence.
There were some earlier questions as to who owned the dog. Police say McNeil told them he was walking the dog for someone else, but aperson who spoke with police said he gave the animal to McNeil about a year ago and that the suspect has been the owner of the dog ever since.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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