On January 21st, 2013 three pit bulls mauled an eleven-year old boy in Northwest Washington D.C., according to the Washington Post. One of the boy's neighbors witnessed the incident, retreated into his home, returned with a handgun, and aided police in shooting and killing the three dogs to help free the boy. The victim is undergoing complicated surgery to help repair the physical damage done by the dogs, but the heroic neighbor who helped save him may be subjected to an investigation by D.C. police because of some potential issues with his firearm.
According to that same Washington Post article, D.C. police claim that they are reviewing the case, and will determine if the neighbor violated the District's gun laws either when he used it to help save the boy, or simply in his purported ownership of a gun that might not be legally registered. At this point D.C. police have yet to bring a formal charge or complaint, and any legal action is theoretical and based on the claims made in the Washington Post article. According to criminal defense attorney David Benowitz, prosecuting the neighbor who helped save the boy would be a terrible decision.
"The neighbor acted heroically in saving the boy from three very dangerous animals, and the law allows for the use of a gun to defend someone in danger. Arresting him would only punish him for the good he did," says Mr. Benowitz. "It might also set a bad example, and cause witnesses of similar situations to hesitate in helping a victim, or simply decide to not risk helping at all. That little boy might not be alive today if that neighbor hadn't taken the actions he did, and I would represent him for free if the District eventually decides to prosecute."
The D.C. police have not released a statement about whether the neighbor will be charged, and have not commented on the registration status of the firearm used in the incident. It may be difficult to try this case, says Mr. Benowitz, because the incident took place close to the homeowners' property line.
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