By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – Gunshots fired in Taylor are echoing around the virtual world via a petition. The question, however, is if a quasi petition effort launched online is likely to succeed.
Taylor resident Julie Sims was outraged that no charges were brought against Joseph Rye, a 70-year-old wheelchair bound man who on Aug. 17 shot and killed a pit bull near his home in the 26800 block of Leroy Street.
According to police reports filed last month, Rye acted in self defense when he saw the unchained, non-tagged dog growling at his wife and neighbor children. Some neighbors disagreed, and argued that stray gunshots presented a danger to the children in the area.
The lack of charges sought by police outraged Sims, owner of two pit bulls, who took to the activism website Change.org to plead her case. An online “petition” was drafted, urging city officials to charge Rye. Sims claims that Rye shot the animal because of its breed more than any threat, and also that he acted irresponsibly.
“He recklessly endangered children who were playing in the street by discharging a handgun,” the online letter explains. “It’s unprofessional and unconscionable that the police department has chosen not to arrest Rye for his cruelty and his reckless endangerment of human life.”
Although sympathetic, City Council Chairwoman Cheryl Burke said there was little that elected officials could do. Following the online postings which included email addresses for city officials, Burke said she heard from hundreds of pit bull lovers.
“We were spammed from all over the country,” Burke said. “We won’t prosecute anybody. This is handled through the Police Department.”
Burke said the dog was taken from the scene by police, and was picked up three days later by its owner, who acknowledged that the dog was unattended and untagged.
“It would be up to her to challenge the lack of charges,” Burke said, adding that the Police Department reviewed reports of the incident and found no cause to submit a warrant request to the County Prosecutor. The report of a discharge of a weapon by a resident will be submitted to city attorneys for further consideration.
If a lesson is learned, Burke said, residents should never leave an animal loose and unattended.