After Birmingham police showed up the night of May 30 and proceeded to open fire on Bessie, Smokey and Mookie, the pet dogs of Cosmo’s Pizza owner Leisa Bunn, the officers said they were responding to a midnight call about stray dogs loose in the neighborhood off of Niazuma Avenue.
Evidently that Saturday night incident was not the first time Birmingham police had received and responded to such calls from a resident of the Altamont Gardens condominium complex. In fact, Bunn, her boyfriend Rusty Crawford and other residents of the complex claim to have had prior confrontations with the resident who called the police.
In April of this year, Morreese Smith, reputed to be a disabled Gulf War veteran, called police to the condo complex to make accusations against Crawford, who was walking the dogs when they were shot by police and was also arrested, by the same officers who shot the dogs, the night of that incident. On the occasion of the April call to police, Crawford says Smith accused him of stealing Smith’s gun from the seat of Smith’s car.
Responding police took no action based on this call and accusation by Smith.
According to Altamont Gardens residents, Smith also lodged at least one call with police protesting condo association president Wes Short’s letting his dogs out late at night to go the bathroom. According to these accounts, the way that Smith yelled at Short on the night of the incident was so menacing that Short was concerned for his safety. Rather than returning to his own apartment, Short instead sought shelter at a friend’s unit in the condo complex at approximately 2 a.m.
The next day Birmingham police showed up at Short’s friend’s unit looking for Short to talk to him about the police report on his dogs. Smith later called police to the condo complex to accuse Short’s friend of “bothering the tires” on Smith’s vehicle.
Short eventually engaged an attorney to address recurring complaints by Smith about Short’s dogs.
According to Leisa Bunn’s attorney Tommy Spina, on May 2, 2009, Smith brandished a pistol and threatened the dogs while Bunn was walking them on a leash in the parking lot of the complex.
Prior to the night of the dog-shooting incident, Bunn and Crawford had changed their dog-walking route so as not to pass by Mr. Smith’s unit. According to Bunn, on the night of her arrest, Smith came out of his condo to taunt her as she sat handcuffed and barefooted in the back of a patrol car, and he had to be ordered back inside by the police.
Last weekend, a month before his lease ended in July, Smith moved out of the complex. His whereabouts are currently unknown to the condo management company.
Newspaper accounts say around half a dozen shots were fired on the night of May 30. According to Crawford, each patrolman fired at least six shots. Afterwards, as previously reported, Bunn was arrested, allegedly for using the F-word, after being warned not to do it again, in response to the shooting of her dogs.
Crawford says he was asking the police why they fired on the dogs, and why they continued to fire on the dogs when they were running away, but otherwise has no idea why he was also arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail following the incident.
After the two officers initially responding to the purported stray dog call arrested Bunn and Crawford, numerous police showed up at the scene. The officer who took charge of the scene after the arrest released Crawford from his handcuffs so they could follow the trail of blood in an attempt to locate Bessie, who was shot twice in the leg. The dog’s leg has since been amputated.
Crawford and the officer found Bessie lying in a pool of blood in front of the door to Bunn and Crawford’s condo unit. Crawford was then re-handcuffed and placed in the back of another patrol car.
The other two outlaw dogs, Mookie and Smokey, who prompted the stray dog call in the first place and later allegedly terrorized the responding officers into opening fire —one would assume by their vicious appearance and demeanor — were left at large by Birmingham police when they left the scene to take Bunn and Crawford to jail. The other two dogs were not located until the next day.
The Birmingham News carried the story on the front page on Tuesday, June 2, 2009, along with a photo of the wounded Bessie. However, neither Bunn nor Crawford have been interviewed by the News in connection with stories about this incident.