Former officer found not guilty in Grover Beach fatal dog attack

April 13, 2019

Kings County Deputy Sheriff Alex Geiger and “Boss” with a demonstration at Hidden Valley Park in Hanford, California in 2013.

A jury found former Grover Beach police officer Alex Geiger not guilty on Friday of two felony counts alleging he did not maintain control of his retired police dog before it attacked and killed a neighbor, and one felony count of manslaughter. [Cal Coast Times]

While the defense argued the death was a tragic accident that the victim may have provoked with a BB gun, the prosecution claimed there was considerable evidence that the Geiger’s dogs were dangerous. The prosecution also raised questions about issues with securing the fence the dogs broke through.

During closing arguments, Geiger’s attorney Melina Benninghoff and Judge Jacquelyn Duffy questioned prosecutor Steve Wagner’s tactics. On three occasions, Benninghoff objected because Eagner was using facts not in evidence, with the judge agreeing each time, according to KSBY.

On Dec. 12, 2016, the two dogs belonging to Geiger chewed through a fence, broke loose and attacked a 64-year-old man and an 85-year-old woman. The man, David Fear, died shortly after the attack, while the elderly woman, Betty Long, survived serious injuries.

In a statement released shortly after the verdict was read, District Attorney Dan Dow said he plans to continue to support the victims and their families.

“While disappointed with the result, the District Attorney’s Office wishes to thank the Jury for their diligent service to our community in hearing the case of People v. Alex Geiger,” Dow said.  “The facts of this case are tragic for all involved and the incident has greatly affected the families of the victims Mr. David Fear and Ms. Betty Long.  Our staff at the Christopher G. Money Victim Witness Assistance Center will continue to provide available support to the victim’s families going forward.”


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Francesca Bolognini

The animals in question had been weaponized. Weaponized. Then they were left unattended in an enclosure that was clearly inadequate to contain them. It defies imagination how anyone justifies them attacking an 85 year old woman, BB gun or not. Most especially since the woman was not herself even operating a BB gun. I have owned an animal with personal protection attack training. Under proper circumstances, their training must be serious, a lifelong commitment and they act on command, or under very specific circumstances only. Period. Breaking thru a fence and bringing deadly assault upon a non-designated target, an elderly, non-threatening, non-combatant neighbor is way out of line with the proper discipline that needs to be maintained throughout such an animal’s life. It suggests to me an owner who not only did not work appropriately with the dogs but also encouraged them to react with intensity to any perceived encroachment, appropriately or not. Someone who did not follow thru with their responsibility to protect the public by adequately managing these dogs or properly containing them had absolutely no business owning them and belongs in prison as much as an adult who leaves loaded firearms for unattended children to investigate, resulting in the usual tragic circumstances.


I agree that favoritism was applied here and proper prosecution was lacking entirely.


Mike Morgan

Hung jury, guilty, innocent as charged and innocent. This is for the jury to decide. I’m surprised that the commenters here think that if you are indited you are guilty and the jury has but one choice. That’s not how it works in the US. The jury has spoken.


kayaknut

Is anyone really surprised? From the beginning, the investigation was half-hearted. It was clear the police and others were trying to protect one of their own. Didn’t DA Dow originally not want to charge him or charge him with a very minor slap on the wrist charge and only after some public pressure decided to go for a felony. From there I knew nothing would happen to this one of the protected class. Once again were are shown laws are only meant for some and not for others, DA Dow is just hoping this issue fades away, but this one among the countless others will stay in my mind until his next election.


Gordo

This was a dog of a case, not made any better by DDA Steve Wagner, whose facial expressions alone tend to turn off juries, never mind his argument style.

The DA’s office is a rudderless ship with no sense of direction. They charged this case, but refused to file charges in the case of the Paso police officer forcing sex on a woman, or the earlier case of the woman abducted and held in North county by a group of men who sexually assaulted her.

At some point the Attorney General’s office is going to look into the operation and filing decisions of Mr. Dow’s office and conclude that if he won’t do his job they will do it for him.


shelworth

What was that about a BB gun? Never heard about that before.


AmericaTheFree

Sounds like the prosecution dropped the ball, again! I don’t care how many times an objection is made, sustained or otherwise, it still reaches the ears of the jury and will come into play during their decision making process, and it sounds like the ADA who tried this case payed that like a fiddle….


DPINC

The regular Joe citizen would be fried ….


jimmy_me

So if I want to kill someone and get away with it, I’ll just have my dog do it for me.


Mjd

Folks,


The jury in this case ought to be ashamed of themselves, and I hope they are publicly identified. How can a police officer, who knows his police dog has potentially deadly attack capabilities, not be held responsible when that same dog maims and kills his neighbors?


I support law enforcement, but I also support the rule-of-law, and Officer Alex Geiger clearly was guilty as charged in this case. Prosecutor Stephen Wagner was out dueled by defense attorney Melina Benninghoff, who used lowballs tactics, and the judge in this case should have disallowed the contention by the defense attorney that deceased victim David Fear had picked up and shot a BB gun shortly before the attack. There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Fear did any such thing.


I would love to see a member of the jury explain their verdict, but I bet they are too embarrassed to want to try to defend their callous disregard for the truth.


Just saying.


RIP, Mr. David Fear

Get Well: Mrs. Betty Long