ATLANTA (AP) — 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.
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 police 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 in the investigation to determine exactly who fired the gunshots. Dutton said he did not know if anyone in the home was armed besides the police officers. 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.
Derek Perez told The Associated Press 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 police officers had opened fire.
“If they say they had the wrong address, that’s very frightening,” Gilman said. “I’m scared to think you could see this happening all the time.”
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 such a shooting since it wasn’t fatal. But given the complicated circumstances, he said he asked the GBI, a statewide law enforcement agency, 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. After getting an incorrect tip from a drug dealer, police used a no-knock warrant to enter Kathryn Johnston‘s home. As the police officers tried getting inside, Johnston fired a single shot through the door with a rusty revolver. Police fired back 39 times, killing Johnston.
Officers then tried covering up their mistake by planting bags of marijuana at the house. Three of the officers were sent to prison. The city paid a $4.9 million settlement to the slain woman’s family.