Police shoot attacking pit bull after Colo. officer bitten

Chris Barge
Rocky Mountain News
Copyright 2006 Denver Publishing Company

A Denver police officer shot and killed a pit bull Sunday morning when it attacked him as he tried to arrest a man at a motel off East Colfax Avenue.

The officer was taken by ambulance to Denver Health Medical Center with a serious injury to his left hand. His name was not released by police. The officer was in fair condition at the hospital, said Detective John White, police spokesman.

"It is a pretty severe bite, but we are hopeful there is no significant damage that was done to the officer's hand," White said.

Denver police officers routinely check area motel and hotel guest registries for anyone who may be wanted. At about 8 a.m. Sunday, three officers checked the books at the Driftwood Motel, in the 1400 block of Oneida St., and found the name of a man they believed was wanted on felony warrants relating to dangerous drugs, escape and contempt of court, White said.

The officers knocked on a door and arrested the man while a woman staying in the room put a large pit bull in the motel room's bathroom.

"The dog was somehow able to get out of the bathroom and attack the officer," White said.

The dog bit into the officer's left hand and would not let go, Denver police Sgt. Bob Wyckoff said. The officer used his free hand to shoot the pit bull, and another officer also fired at the animal, which died at the scene.

Motel owner Jean Han said she heard five shots, followed by three more.

She said the man checked into the motel about two weeks ago. Rates there are between $150 and $180 per week.

She said that while dogs are allowed, guests need to let management know if they have one. Han said she was not told about the dog.

Pit bulls are banned in Denver.

The woman in the room was jailed on suspicion of possessing a dangerous animal, Wyckoff said.

Police arrested Donovan Sommerville, 29. Later, police discovered that while Sommerville's rap sheet included arrests on drug and forgery charges, he was not, in fact, wanted on the warrants for which they arrested him.

"It sounds like Mr. Sommerville is a victim of identity theft," White said. "He was arrested under the belief he had three active warrants. These are the warrants that are currently active for the real perpetrator."

Nonetheless, officers continued to keep Sommerville in custody Sunday on charges related to the pit bull attack, White said.

White said police were still trying to figure out the identity of the man who called himself Sommerville. A Colorado Bureau of Investigations background check found that another man, Jermaine Edwards, 23, has used Sommerville's name as an alias in the past.

Sunday's confrontation came one week after an officer in Boulder shot a pit bull at Eben G. Fine Park.

Officer Jeremy McGee killed the dog after it allegedly bit two people and then lunged at him.

Owner Sarah Mallory, 18, was cited for having a dog at large and an aggressive animal. 
Photo, Donovan Sommerville was arrested along with a woman following dog attack.
June 12, 2006


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