Councilors Order Probe of Shooting Of Dogs by Police

The Cambridge City Council last night ordered special investigations of an incident Saturday night in which two Cambridge Police officers shot three dogs in the Central Square area.

Pegi Cunningham, the owner of the dogs, spoke to the council in a special hearing in which she detailed her version of the incident that left one of her dogs dead on her doorstep and two others wounded by .38 caliber police slugs.

Cunningham said that at about 6 p.m. Saturday two uniformed officers entered her apartment building at 279 Pearl St. in response to a reported dog-bite incident in front of the building approximately 15 minutes earlier.

Cunningham said the officers opened fire on her dogs "without any warning or indication" that they were there or that there was any disturbance.

After the shots were fired, residents of the building called the city police to quell the commotion they heard downstairs.

"They didn't know if there was a maniac downstairs, or if it was firecrackers," Steve Kirschbaum, one of the residents of the building, said last night.

Cunningham said that when she arrived at the scene, the second police car had already arrived and the four officers in the building were gathered together on the landing where the shooting took place.

"I tried to get some idea of what was going on, but none of them gave me a satisfactory answer," she said.

She added that the officers refused to give her their names or badge numbers.

"A Public Works truck came and took the dead dog away despite my protests that the body remain where it was," she continued.

Cunningham said in her opinion, "There is no excuse for the manner in which the incident was handled."

"I felt horrified at the endangerment to my fellow tenants, and I shudder to think what their response would be a more serious situation," she added. "They acted in total disregard to the safety of the tenants."

Councilor David Clem said that a hearing should be held "on the face of the information" Cunningham gave in her testimony.

Clem cautioned the other tenants to wait to give their versions of the story until a public hearing could be scheduled to present the police version of the incident.

"If you tell us now, then the police might come in with a story to refute yours point by point," he told the tenants.

Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci said Chief of Police Nicholas A. Fratto informed him that the police division of internal affairs had begun its investigation of the matter and that City Manager James L. Sullivan will bring the results of the investigation to the hearing.

The council then voted that its public safety committee proceed with its own investigation, and that the city manager present a personal report of the incident in addition to the official police story.

Cunningham said she hoped the hearing will help restore "reasonable handling" of future emergencies that could endanger citizens in their homes.

"If the police want to act this way they ought to remove their guns and give them water pistols instead," she added

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