A former Los Angeles County assistant fire chief took the witness stand today and denied allegations that he brutally beat his neighbor’s dog without cause.
Glynn Damon Johnson, 54, testified during a preliminary hearing that the dog, a 45-pound puppy named Karley, attacked him suddenly as he walked it to its owners’ home.
Moments later its jaws were clenched on his thumb, Johnson testified.
Fearing his thumb was being severed, Johnson said he picked up a nearby rock and attempted to strike the dog in the head three times — he said he connected twice — and stopped when the puppy released its grip on his hand.
“I was absolutely terrified,” Johnson testified in Riverside Superior Court. “I thought I was going to lose my thumb.”
Johnson said this morning that “there was no alternative” but to hit the dog with the 10-inch rock.
Prosecutors have charged Johnson with a single felony count of animal cruelty for the Nov. 3, 2008 incident on Armintrout Drive in Riverside.
The puppy, a German Shepard mix, was euthanized after the incident.
Three of Johnson’s neighbors testified Tuesday that Johnson appeared to have no reason to attack the dog viciously and without reason.
The neighbors said Johnson struck the dog with his fist and the rock as many as 30 times — far more than the three times Johnson claimed in testimony today.
Johnson said he saw the dog leave its owners’ yard and run through his yard under a fence to an adjoining property. He said he went outside to help the dog back to its yard.
As he was escorting the dog, holding its collar with his left hand, it “turned and started biting and attacking me,” Johnson testified.
The dog first latched its jaw onto Johnson’s left wrist, then released its grip and bit down on his right thumb. Johnson said he heard his thumb making a “pop” sound after the dog clenched its molars.
The incident left Johnson’s thumb nearly severed, requiring six stitches when treated, a physician’s assistant who treated Johnson after the incident testified today.
After today’s hearing, Deputy District Attorney William Robinson declined to respond directly when asked whether he believed Johnson’s testimony was truthful.
“We have a different position,” Robinson said. “That’s clear.”
Jeffrey Toole, Karley’s owner, said he believes Johnson lied on the witness stand. “I truly believe that his intent was to kill Karley,” Toole said.
Toole said he believes Johnson suffered his thumb injury by punching the dog, and catching one of the dog’s teeth with his thumb in the process.
Johnson is set to retake the witness stand Friday morning.
At a preliminary hearing, prosecutors must present evidence to demonstrate there is sufficient cause for a case to proceed to trial.
There is typically no defense testimony at preliminary hearings, but Johnson’s attorney has so far called Johnson, Johnson’s wife, and the physician to the witness stand.
Johnson supervised Los Angeles County fire stations in Pomona, Diamond Bar and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley. He retired about two months after the incident.