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Falls officer shoots attacking pit bull, wounds fellow officer

A Niagara Falls police officer under attack from a pit bull Tuesday accidentally wounded a fellow officer in the leg while shooting at the dog, police said.

The two officers were dispatched at 11 a.m. to investigate a complaint about two loose dogs on the 1100 block of North Ave. The officers secured the dogs and were attempting to return them to their owner when a third pit bull ran from the owner's house and attacked one of the officers, police said.

Officer David Bower, who was bitten in the arm and leg, fired several shots, killing the attacking dog, Deputy Superintendent Nicholas J. Ligammari said. One shot ricocheted off the concrete porch and struck the second officer, he said.

"(Bower) was protecting himself to the point where he had no other option but to shoot the dog," Ligammari said. "He was really upset. It was an accident, but he was more upset about that (his colleague's injury) than about being attacked by the dog.

"There were some witnesses, and everyone was praising what he was able to do," Ligammari said.

The shot officer was taken to Erie County Medical Center for treatment and is expected to recover fully. Bower, who is the department's animal control officer, was treated at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for dog bites.

Police declined to identify the officer who was shot.

Amy L. Lewis, executive director of the SPCA of Niagara, said the two adult pit bulls and three puppies were taken from the owner's house and brought to the SPCA. The dog that was killed was the mother of the puppies. The dogs will be returned if the owner produces proof of ownership, Lewis said.

"I don't know why they took those dogs. They're harmless," said Willie Carter, boyfriend of the dogs' owner, Barbara Cessna.

He said the two adult dogs got out of the house when the wind blew the door open. After they were recovered, Carter said Bower came to the door of the house to talk to Cessna, and the mother dog charged.

"They're trained like that, you know," Carter said.

He said Bower fired about six shots, which Carter thought was overdoing it.

"After the dog was killed, they kept shooting. Six times," Carter said. "They were shooting like they were on the warpath, man. One shot took the dog out. It didn't make sense."

He said the dog that was killed was six or seven years old, and the dogs that ran loose, one male and one female, were nearly three years old. The puppies, two males and a female, were about four weeks old, he said.

Lewis said the dogs were unlicensed and the dead dog will be autopsied to check for rabies, since she didn't have current rabies immunizations.

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