D.C. criminal defense attorney Daniel Gross, was recently quoted in a Washington Times story regarding what could be the controversial prosecution of a man who shot and killed a pit bull that was mauling a young boy.
According to D.C. police and witnesses, the 11-year-old had turned a corner out of an alley on his new bicycle he received for Christmas when he was attacked by three pit bills. The dogs were reportedly unleashed and unattended by their owner. The dogs reportedly clamped their jaws down into the boys chest, stomach, arms and legs.
The owner was nowhere in sight - but another neighbor was. He ran into his home, grabbed a firearm and fired off a single round, hitting one of the animals. Just then, a police officer who was patrolling on his bicycle heard the gunshot and responded in a matter of moments. When he arrived, the dogs were still attacking the boy, prompting the officer to fire several more shots to get the dogs off the boy.
All three dogs died.
The boy, who suffered severe injuries as a result of the attack (and may have even been hit by one of those bullets, according to family members) had to undergo surgery. The boy's family says he is traumatized, and afraid to ever go outside again.
Both the boy's family members and those in the community are hailing the neighbor's actions as that of a hero.
Prosecutors, though, may take a different approach. They are trying to find out for starters whether the armed neighbor legally owned his firearm. Possession of an unregistered firearm or ammunition is punishable by up to one year in a prison and a $1,000 fine, if convicted. If the person is a felon, this offense could result in a maximum 10 years in prison.
Even if the gun was legally registered, it's possible he could be charged for firing it on the street - a crime in D.C. But as Attorney Daniel Gross pointed out to the Washington Times reporter, the issue of whether the gun was legally owned and appropriately registered will likely have a strong bearing in how prosecutors choose to proceed.
Unlawful discharge of a firearm without a permit, under D.C. Criminal Code 22-4503.1, carries a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine as well.
Carrying a pistol without a license, D.C. Criminal Code 22-4504(a) means a person carried a deadly or dangerous weapon outside his or her dwelling, property or place of business. If charged as a felony, it could mean up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
There are two possible defenses that could be mounted in this case, should prosecutors decide to move forward with criminal charges. The first of those would be self-defense, or in this case, defense of another. It seems this individual could make a strong case for this.
The second option would be based on where exactly the armed neighbor was at the time he fired the shots. Was he on his property or was he standing in the street or on the sidewalk? The issue of whether he was on his on property or not at the time the shots were fired makes a big difference. If he was on his own property, he couldn't be charged with "carrying" a pistol without a license.