COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A 4-year-old girl who was shot in the leg when a police officer fired at a dog is recovering after surgery as her family questions how the officer responded.
Ava Ellis was hit accidentally on the afternoon of June 19 when an officer fired at a charging dog at a home in Whitehall, in central Ohio, according to Columbus police. The department said another relative had flagged down the officer for help after the girl’s mother cut herself on glass.
Ava’s parents, Andrea and Brad Ellis, and their attorney disputed the police account Tuesday and alleged the policeman fired unnecessarily and acted recklessly with children nearby on the porch. They say the roughly 40-pound dog, a bulldog mix named Patches, was retreating inside from the porch when the officer fired.
“The dog may have barked at the officer; however, the officer should not have shot,” attorney Michael Wright said. “There was absolutely no reason for him to shoot. He was within 10 (or) 12 feet of the children.”
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The family also says people yelled to notify the officer that the girl was hurt but claims he drove away without offering help, and other emergency responders had to care for the girl.
A police spokeswoman, Denise Alex-Bouzounis, contradicted that, saying by email that the officer remained at the scene and called for help. The department identified him as Officer Jonathan Thomas, who had been with the force for five years.
He is not on paid administrative leave, as the Ellises’ attorney suggested, Alex-Bouzounis said.
The Ellis family and their attorneys are conducting a private investigation separate from the pending police investigation of what happened, said Wright, who added that it was too early to comment on possible legal action by Ava’s parents.
The family says the bullet broke Ava’s leg, and she’ll require further surgeries.