— JASMINE VIEL (@jasmineviel) June 22, 2017
Amber Alcantar woke early Thursday morning to a knock at the door.
Before her stood a friend of her nephew, 17-year-old Armando Garcia-Muro. The young man was frantically searching for Garcia-Muro’s mother, Alcantar told the Los Angeles Times. In his hands were bloody shoes.
“Obviously something was wrong,” Alcantar said.
What had just unfolded outside an apartment complex in Palmdale, Calif., would later be described by authorities as an “extremely, extremely unfortunate incident” and by his family as the tragic loss of an animal-loving teen. While trying to shoot a dog that had attacked an officer, deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office instead struck Garcia-Muro.
Their bullets ricocheted off the driveway, authorities said, and one hit the teen’s chest. He later died at a hospital.
The sheriff’s office released details of the incident in a statement and at a news conference, but did not identify the teen victim. The family of Garcia-Muro told local reporters his name and age.
“My nephew was trying to save the dog because the cops started shooting at the dog,” Alcantar, the teen’s aunt, told CBS Los Angeles. “He put his life on the line for an animal that wasn’t even his.”
According to the police account, deputies were called to an apartment in Palmdale, a city 60 miles north of Los Angeles, just before 4 a.m. Thursday to investigate a report of “loud music.” They approached the apartment in question and were “aggressively charged” by a 60 to 65-pound pit bull, authorities said. The dog bit one of the deputies on the knee.
At that time, a “male Hispanic juvenile” emerged from behind the apartment, restrained the dog and took him back to the rear of the complex. Deputies “retreated back onto the street for safety,” treated the injured officer and called paramedics.
As they waited for help to arrive, the dog returned and charged the deputies again, authorities said. Two officers shot at the dog from a distance of five to seven feet and it returned to a carport area behind the complex.
Deputies followed the dog to trap it and “prevent additional victims” but in the carport area, they found the young teen bleeding on the ground from “what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the chest.” Deputies provided medical attention until paramedics transported the boy to a local hospital, where he died.
“Preliminary investigation indicated the first six to eight feet where the shooting occurred with the pit bull, there was evidence of skip rounds on the driveway area,” the sheriff’s department said in the statement. “Detectives believe when the juvenile came out from behind the building, which was approximately 40 feet away from where the shooting occurred with the dog, the juvenile may have been struck by one of the skip rounds.”
The deputy injured by the dog bite was also hit by a bullet fragment in his right leg, authorities said. He was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition. The dog was shot and survived but will be euthanized, authorities said.
At a news conference, Capt. Christopher Bergner told reporters five deputies were present at the time of the shooting but only two discharged their weapons, reported the Los Angeles Times. Six to eights shots were fired, Bergner said.
“(The teen) may have been struck by one of the skip rounds in what we’re calling an extremely, extremely unfortunate incident,” Bergner said. “Our initial impression was didn’t even see the individual coming around from the side of the building.”
The dog’s owner, a woman, told the Los Angeles Times that the neighborhood kids use her home a local hangout to listen to music.
“They are all my friends,” the woman, who declined to give her name, told the LA Times. “They are good kids.”
The dog, she said, is a 3-year-old blue-nosed pit bull that was usually well-mannered when off its leash. She disputed authorities’ claim that her dog attacked them.
“That’s not my dog,” the woman told the LA Times. “That’s not his personality.”
Garcia-Muro’s mother, Roberta Alcantar, told the Times her son was the eldest of four siblings, loved dogs and wanted to go into the construction business. He would have been a senior at R. Rex Parris High School in Palmdale this fall.
“He would give his life for anybody,” Alcantar said. “He was a very loving person.”