Police officers who arrived at the wrong Atlanta home after a report of suspicious activity shot the man who lives there, killed his dog and “likely” shot a fellow officer, leaving him seriously wounded, authorities said Tuesday.
Tama Colson, who lives two doors down from the home where the shooting erupted, said she was using a shirt to staunch the bleeding from her neighbor’s bullet wound as he asked aloud: “Why did they come in my house? Why did they shoot me? Why did they shoot my dog?”
The bloody misunderstanding began Monday night when DeKalb County police received a report of a possible burglary at a one-story residence near an intersection in southeast Atlanta. Lacking an exact address, the officers were sent in the dark to a neighborhood where many of the single-story homes look similar.
Three officers found a home they thought matched a description provided by a 911 caller, but were unable to make contact with anyone inside, according to a statement from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They entered the home through an unlocked rear door and two officers fired their guns at a dog, killing it.
A man in the home who exited a room off the kitchen was also shot in the leg by police, GBI officials said. A police officer was shot in the hip and listed in serious condition at Grady Memorial Hospital.
“Early investigation indicates that the injured officer was likely shot accidently by one of the other officers on the scene,” GBI officials said in a statement.
However, GBI spokesman Scott Dutton said it was too early to determine exactly who fired the gunshots. Dutton said he did not know if anyone in the home was armed besides the police. GBI officials said there is no evidence the residents there had committed any crimes.
The wounded man, whose name was not released, returned home early Tuesday, limping and wearing hospital scrubs, but declined to comment.
Colson, his neighbor, said she was coming home from a walk when she saw police cars speed past and soon heard a series of gunshots.
Colson told The Associated Press that as she rounded the corner, she saw her wounded neighbor and his wife fleeing their home. The woman was screaming, Colson said, and her husband was yelling: “They shot me and they shot my dog!”
Colson said her neighbor had a bullet wound a couple of inches above his right knee. She said she knelt beside him in the yard to help treat the injury as he told her what happened.
“He told me they were in the house watching television when they heard something in the backyard,” Colson said. “The husband gets up to check, opens the door and he just sees shooting. He gets hit and his dog is dead.”
She said police never questioned the neighbor while she was there helping him.
Derek Perez told The AP that he reported the suspicious person, but at a different house from the one the police entered. He said he was walking his dog when he saw a man knock on a neighbor’s door and then just stand in the yard. He said he then heard a loud noise, a dog barking and didn’t see the man anymore. There had been break-ins in the neighborhood recently, so he called 911, he said.
Bob Gilman, who lives nearby, said he heard police sirens Monday night, went outside and saw his neighbor sitting on the driveway, wounded. Gilman said police officers escorted him away before he could ask what had happened. He was stunned that officers had opened fire.
“If they say they had the wrong address, that’s very frightening,” Gilman said.
The wounded man’s dog, a brindle boxer, was large, playful and would run up to people. Gilman said the dog never attacked others. The wounded man’s home had been hit by previous break-ins, and the man told Gilman that he owned a shotgun and a handgun.
DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander said his agency would normally investigate a non-fatal shooting. But given the complicated circumstances, he said he asked the GBI to lead the probe involving his own officers’ actions.
Alexander acknowledged Monday night that DeKalb officers responded to the wrong home. All three officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Police officers have mistakenly forced their way inside homes before in Atlanta, at least once with deadly consequences.
In 2006, Atlanta police officers killed a 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid at her house.