SDPD Offers Narrative, Body-Cam Footage in Fatal OIS of Man Suspected of Killing Police Dog

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Authorities on Thursday released video footage of last week’s fatal confrontation between San Diego police officers and an armed man in Clairemont Mesa.

The brief standoff ended when a patrolman opened fire on the suspect, who allegedly fatally shot a police service dog named Sir before dying.

The San Diego Police Department posted the 10-minute video to YouTube. It includes a recording of a 911 call, along with footage from two officer-worn cameras – though multiple officers were at the scene – and a dash cam.

Part of an officer’s footage is obscured as he was lying on the ground pointing a department rifle in the moments before the shooting, but the audio is discernible.

Near the conclusion of the video, the police note that “officers were positioned too far away from (the suspect) to effectively deploy bean-bag rounds.” He also can barely be seen in the footage. The police instead provide a written narrative during the post to describe his actions and position.

The events that led to the deadly encounter began shortly before 1:30 a.m. Aug. 2, when a 911 caller reported being shot at by the occupants of a white Tesla sedan in the 3500 block of Ben Street, just west of the area where Interstate 805 and state Route 163 meet.

On the video, the victim can be heard telling a dispatcher the Tesla had been tailing his vehicle before it passed him and pulled to a stop, at which point a man – later identified as Benjamin Pickens, 33 – got out and opened fire with a pistol.

A dash cam in a vehicle parked on the residential street captured images, though, of not one, but two shooters firing as the victim hit the gas. The shooting stops, and the Tesla backs away down the street.

During his emergency call to police, the victim provided the license-plate number of the Tesla, and according to narrative and maps provided in the video, officers were able to use a GPS signal to trace its location to an alley off the 7400 block of Armstrong Place, east of San Diego Mesa College.

Searching the area, officers found the sedan with Pickens behind the wheel, alone and holding a handgun, according to police. When they tried to pull him over, the suspect sped off, and officers soon lost sight of the car.

A short time later, police again located the Tesla, this time in the 7200 block of Mesa College Circle. The vehicle, shown on the video via an officer’s body cam, had been involved in a solo crash and was unoccupied, its emergency lights flashing and driver’s door open. Officers did not find a firearm inside.

A short time later, officers spotted Pickens on foot nearby, talking on a cell phone with a pistol tucked under his left armpit. As they watched, taking cover behind their parked cruisers with guns drawn, the suspect, according to the narrative and an officer’s description, repeatedly touched the pistol with his right hand.

“Talk to us,” someone from the police department can be heard saying during the obscured footage, “What are you looking for? … We don’t want to hurt you.” Another voice can be heard stating the position of the suspect’s gun, while a dog barks.

Pickens ignored officers’ orders to surrender, the narrative noted, and began walking off, heading toward an empty lot.

At that point, footage shows a handler releasing his service dog, Sir, a Belgian Malinois, and the canine running toward the suspect.

Pickens responded, the video stated, by turning, drawing his gun and pointing it in the direction of police. At that point, Officer Addam Ansari opened fire with his service rifle, wounding the suspect in the chest.

A moment later, a second gunshot sounds, followed by Sir’s anguished yelps. The dog can be seen collapsing.

Officers sent in another service dog to move the wounded suspect away from his gun, which remained within his reach.

Sir’s handler, meanwhile, provided first aid to the 4 1/2-year-old dog and rushed him to an animal hospital, where veterinarians could not save him.

Paramedics took Pickens to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The victim who had originally been shot at was unharmed, though the incident left bullet holes in his windshield and rear window.

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