• U.S.
  • Law Enforcement

Police Who Were Shooting at a Pit Bull Accidentally Killed a 17-Year-Old Boy Instead

2 minute read

Authorities in Los Angeles accidentally shot and killed a 17-year-old boy after unleashing a hail of bullets on a charging pit bull the teenager was trying to protect, his grieving family said.

Armando Garcia-Muro, an incoming high school senior, died Thursday after being shot in the chest, authorities and relatives said. The teenager was caught in the gunfire as two sheriff’s deputies opened fire on the attacking animal, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“My nephew was trying to save the dog because the cops started shooting at the dog,” the teenager’s aunt, Amber Alcantar, told CBS Los Angeles. “He put his life on the line for an animal that wasn’t even his.”

Authorities said Garcia-Muro was likely caught in the crosshairs of ricocheting bullets. The deputies were responding to complaint calls of loud music at about 3:50 a.m., when they were met at the residence by an aggressive pit bull. The sheriff’s office said the roughly 65-pound dog charged at the deputies and bit one on his left knee.

Garcia-Muro appeared, corralled the dog and took it to the back of the apartment complex as the deputies moved to the street to focus on the injured officer. The pit bull then came running from the back of the residence, prompting a pair of deputies to open fire on it from up to seven feet away. Soon after the shooting, authorities found Garcia-Muro suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest near the back of the complex. He later died at a hospital.

The sheriff’s office said a ricocheting bullet may have struck him, although the incident is still under investigation. Six to eights shots were fired, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Christopher Bergner said at a news conference, in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times. The pit bull will be euthanized, authorities said.

Garcia-Muro was an animal lover who wanted to pursue a career in construction, his mother Roberta Alcantar told the Times. “He would give his life for anybody,” she said. “He was a very loving person.”

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com