Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Glynn Damon Johnson, 54 Fire Chief beats dog to death with a rock

Riverside, CA

Los Angeles County

November 3, 2008  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse

using a deadly weapon

1 dog Convicted  

A Los Angeles County Fire Department division chief is being investigated for beating his neighbor's dog and causing injuries that led to the animal's euthanizing.

  (Photo courtesy of California Fire News)  Glynn Johnson, 54, supervises stations in Pomona, Diamond Bar, Walnut, Industry, La Puente, Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights.

Riverside County sheriff's deputies received two calls from the 17000 block of Armintrout Drive in Riverside, according to a sheriff's news release.  A woman called and said her husband was attacked by a dog, and a man called and said his neighbor had beaten a dog with a large rock.

Los Angeles County Assistant Fire Chief Glynn Johnson said he was defending himself when the 6-month-old German shepherd mix, Karley, nearly severed his thumb.

Johnson said the dog got loose and ran through his yard when he grabbed her by the collar and started walking her home. Halfway there, Johnson said Karley rolled on her back and bit onto his thumb. "I didn't want to kill a puppy," Johnson said, his left thumb wrapped in gauze and his right hand bandaged. "It surprised me. The dog tore into me with the ferocity of a badger. I'm very sorry they lost a dog, but I was also the victim of an attack."  Johnson was hospitalized and suffered a broken bone in his thumb. He said he had to have his thumb reattached and still suffers severe pain.

The dog's owners, the Toole family, said the dog was found several months ago off the side of the road and was adopted into their family. They said she had never been vicious and they believe Johnson maliciously pummeled the dog in a premeditated attack.  "I think it was his intention to hurt our dog," said Shelley Toole. "She was like my baby. I miss her terribly, and I can't feel safe living next to him."

Police are trying to determine whether a crime has been committed.  No arrest has been made, but police are investigating possible animal cruelty charges if the case is submitted to the Riverside County district attorney's office.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said Johnson contacted his superiors about the incident, calling it self-defense. He agreed to go on paid administrative leave until the outcome of the investigation, Johnson said.

"The Los Angeles County Fire Department is deeply concerned with allegations regarding Assistant Fire Chief Glynn Johnson 's actions in the beating of his neighbor's dog," Freeman said in a statement. "Once more facts are available, the department will take appropriate action as warranted."

A neighbor, Travis Staggs, 24, said he had found the dog at the bottom of the Toole's driveway, when Johnson offered to take it home next door.

Staggs said he didn't see Karley bite Johnson and thought he walked the puppy behind a barn on his property where he couldn't be seen. Staggs said Johnson got on top of the dog and started punching the puppy, trying to rip the dog's jaws apart as he bashed her head with a rock.

After Karley snapped, Johnson said he had to pry the dog's jaws open to free his hand, and then the puppy bit his other hand. Johnson said he used a rock to beat the dog into submission until he stopped biting him.

The Toole family found the dog lying in a gully. The dog suffered a broken jaw, nose, crushed skull and lost an eye. The vet said she would have faced permanent brain damage before the family decided to put her to sleep, according to a Murrieta veterinarian report.

Riverside County sheriff's Investigator David Barton said in a report that police received calls minutes apart - one that a woman's husband had been attacked by a dog, the other that a neighbor had beaten someone's dog with a boulder.

Update 11/11/08:  The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation into the animal cruelty allegations made against Glynn Johnson on November 3 is continuing. For several days, investigators have attempted to contact Johnson to ask if he is willing to provide more information about the incident. Attempts to contact him by phone, at his home and through his employment have been unsuccessful so far.

As a public employee on paid administrative leave he has to be available to his employer, Law enforcement states that Los Angeles County Fire is unable to contact him either. This fugitive is making nearly 15,000 a month while hiding, time for the county to move to firing phase.

California Penal Code 597 makes it a felony for anyone who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal.

Update 12/16/08:  Sheriff's deputies arrested L.A. County Fire Chief Glynn Johnson today in connection with the beating death of a neighbor's dog. The Riverside County District Attorney's office filed felony charges against Johnson for a Nov. 3rd incident in which Johnson allegedly beat a neighbor's six-month-old puppy.

  (Photo of Karley, courtesy of KTLA News)  In recent weeks, animal rights activists and the puppy's owners have launched a campaign seeking criminal charges against Johnson. Last week, dozens of protesters rallied outside the Riverside County DA's office to demand charges be filed against Johnson.

Media attention has also helped publicize the case. Some Southern California radio shows have broadcast the phone number to the district attorney's office and urged listeners to call and pressure officials to file charges.

Bail has not yet been set, and his arraignment has not been scheduled.

Update 12/17/08:  Glynn Damon Johnson, 54, of Woodcrest near Riverside, was arrested and handcuffed and led away from his home by Riverside County sheriff's deputies.


(Photo of Johnson in handcuffs courtesy of KTLA News; Mug Shot courtesy of Riverside Sheriff's Office)

If convicted, Johnson could serve up to four years in prison. Johnson was released on $10,000 bond.

Johnson also is charged with two enhancements of using a deadly weapon to commit a felony. The Riverside County district attorney's office filed the charges more than a month after the Nov. 3 incident.

The dog's owners, Jeff and Shelley Toole, said they were happy to see Johnson get arrested from their front yard.  "I'm joyful. This is what we knew he deserved. We wanted him to feel the process of being arrested like a normal citizen," Jeff Toole said. "He did this to hurt the dog and to hurt us. He's not a nice man."

After the incident Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave from the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Officials did not comment about the arrest or any changes to his employment status.

Update 12/18/08:  A now-retired Los Angeles County assistant fire chief has filed a counter suit against his Riverside-area neighbor, claiming permanent injury after the neighbor's puppy bit his hand.

Her owners, the Toole family, sued Johnson last month seeking an unspecified amount for the loss of Karley, emotional distress and lost wages as a result of that distress.  The Toole's have accused Johnson of letting Karley out of a secured fence with the intent of hurting her, according to their lawsuit.

In the counter lawsuit Johnson's attorneys filed, Johnson seeks reimbursement for legal fees and damages for physical and mental pain, and alleges that the Toole's let Karley loose in his yard.

Following a six-week investigation into whether he was acting maliciously or in self-defense, as he claims, Johnson was charged by Riverside County prosecutors with one count of felony animal cruelty.

He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Feb. 20.

In the cross-complaint, Johnson said the dog bit his leg and through the tip of his thumb, breaking a bone in his hand that caused permanent nerve damage.  "Mr. Johnson wants to be made whole," said his attorney, John Sweeney. "For all the pain the Toole family caused him visited back upon them. Everything they're trying to get from Glynn will not prevail."

Johnson retired early last month because his injuries may prevent him from fighting fires, Sweeney said.

The Toole's attorney, Steve Haney, called the counter suit"frivolous" and untrue.  He said Johnson's claim would not stand up to two witnesses who say they saw the attack, and that medical evidence would show he is not permanently injured.

"In this case their best defense is a good offense," Haney said. "He repeatedly attacked and tried to kill the dog. For him to come back now and say he suffered permanent injuries - if he has any injuries at all, he brought it on himself."

Update 1/15/09:  A plea of not guilty was offered by Johnson, who is free on $100,000 bail.  Johnson, who claims he hit the dog in self-defense, is slated to return to court next month for a felony settlement conference.

Update 4/28/09:  The preliminary hearing to start today in a Riverside courtroom regarding animal abuse charges against former Los Angeles County assistant fire chief Glynn Johnson, 54, of Riverside.

A judge is scheduled to begin reviewing evidence this morning in the animal cruelty case against the retired Los Angeles County assistant fire chief

During the hearing, which may last for two days, a judge will review evidence and testimony to determine if there is enough evidence for Johnson to stand trial before a jury.

Neighbors of former Los Angeles County fire chief Glynn Damon Johnson detailed his allegedly vicious attack of a neighbor's puppy during testimony in Riverside Superior Court.  The neighbors said Johnson brutally beat the 45-pound dog, striking it repeatedly with his fists and then with a 10-inch stone.

The neighbors' account was disputed by Johnson's wife, Bontia Antoinette Johnson, who testified that she saw the dog's jaw clenched on her husband's hand, and he struck it only two or three times, stopping when it loosened its grip.

At the preliminary hearing stage of a felony case, prosecutors must produce evidence to demonstrate there is sufficient cause for a defendant to stand trial on criminal charges.

Preliminary hearings typically include testimony only from prosecution witnesses.   But Johnson's defense has already called Bontia Johnson to testify, and Sweeney said he intends to call additional witnesses including possibly Glynn Johnson.

  (Photo courtesy of fortheloveofthedogblog)  During the hearing, Sweeney showed poster-sized images of a thumb injury requiring stitches that Johnson allegedly suffered during the incident.

The first witness called by Deputy District Attorney William Robinson was 25-year-old Travis Staggs, who testified that he saw Johnson strike the dog 20 to 30 times.   Staggs, Johnson's next-door neighbor, said the puppy, a six-month-old German Shepard mix named Karley, ran into his yard the afternoon of the incident, apparently to play with Staggs' dogs.

Staggs said he grabbed Karley's collar intending to walk the dog back to its owners' home next door to Johnson, on the opposite side of Staggs.  After he began walking the dog, Staggs said Johnson appeared at the fence dividing the two properties and offered to walk the dog home.  Staggs said he passed the dog under the fence to Johnson, and watched as Johnson walked with the dog away from the fence.

He said he saw Johnson strike the dog twice in the head with a closed fist. Johnson was holding the dog's collar with one hand, and punching with the other, Staggs testified.  Staggs said he didn't see the dog acting aggressive toward Johnson - either before or after Johnson struck the dog.  "She was trying to get away from him - trying to get out of her collar," Staggs said.  After the first two blows, Staggs said Johnson threw the puppy onto its back, then straddled the dog and continued to hit it with a closed fist.

Staggs testified that he ran to Johnson's yard, and yelled at him to stop hitting the dog. Johnson didn't respond, Staggs testified.  After Johnson struck the dog 10 to 15 times with his fist, Staggs said he saw Johnson grab the top and bottom of the dog's jaw and pull the two sides in opposite directions. Johnson was "trying to break her jaw," Staggs testified.  Johnson then grabbed a stone from the ground and struck the dog an additional 10 to 15 times with the stone, Staggs testified.  Not once during the incident did the dog act aggressive toward Johnson or try to bite him, Staggs testified.

After the incident, the dog ran away from Johnson's home and laid down in an open field in the neighborhood, Staggs testified.  "She was injured pretty badly. ... She had blood coming out of her mouth, and her tongue was coming out of her mouth," Staggs said.

Two of Johnson's other neighbors testified that they saw Johnson repeatedly strike Karley with a rock.  Stacey and Scott Brown, a married couple who live across the street from Johnson, said the dog did not appear aggressive. They said they did not see the dog attack or bite Johnson.  Scott Brown called Johnson's strikes with the rock "brutal and violent." He said he saw Johnson stand over the dog - which he said was motionless - raise the stone over his head, then throw it at the dog's head.

Johnson's wife, Bontia Johnson, testified that she was inside the family's home when the incident started, and went to the front yard after hearing her husband call for help.  Bontia Johnson, who said she was Glynn Johnson's wife of 30 years, found her husband struggling on the ground with the dog. She said the tussle was like a "wrestling match."  "I saw my husband's right hand in the dog's mouth," she testified.  She said she saw her husband try to pry open the dog's jaws with his hands. He couldn't get his hand out, Bontia Johnson testified.  He then picked up a rock and struck the dog three times, Bontia Johnson testified. After the third hit, the dog let go of Johnson's hand, and he stopped hitting the dog, she testified.

Glynn Johnson declined an interview request following the hearing.  He said he feels he has been "lambasted" by the media and doesn't want to grant interviews without his defense attorney present.

Johnson's defense attorney disputed whether the witness clearly saw the confrontation.

Johnson appeared in the Riverside courtroom for the start of a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for a judge to order a jury trial on felony animal cruelty charges. That ruling is expected today after the hearing concludes.

Johnson sat beside his attorney in front of family and friends while his wife waited outside the courtroom to testify. A handful of animal-rights supporters attended.

Prosecutors showed pictures of the bloodied puppy, which drew gasps from spectators.

Staggs said when he ran to stop Johnson, Johnson pushed him away. He said Johnson had his hands inside Karley's mouth, apparently pulling her jaw open.

Defense attorney John Sweeney asked if it was possible Karley was biting Johnson or had bitten him prior to his attack.

Staggs said, "No."

Sweeney questioned whether Staggs could properly see Johnson as he walked the dog home, due to a boat, the bushes and a large barn that could have blocked his view.

Staggs said he never saw Karley bite Johnson and only saw a small puncture wound on Johnson's forearm.

Sweeney showed a large picture of Johnson's thumb with stitches and said it was severed at the tip.

Staggs said he never saw Johnson's thumb in that condition.

In addition to Staggs, five other witnesses testified including a sheriff's detective and the veterinarian who treated Karley.

Update 5/1/09:  A retired Los Angeles County assistant fire chief charged with animal cruelty in the beating death of his neighbor's puppy could learn today whether he will have to stand trial in the case.

A preliminary hearing for Johnson is set to continue this morning.

On the first day of his preliminary hearing, Johnson testified that Karley all of a sudden whipped around and chomped down on his left wrist.  He said he didn't know what caused the animal's behavior to change.  Johnson testified that his right thumb was fractured -- the tip hanging by a sliver of skin -- after the dog bit him.

The defense exhibited photographs apparently taken within hours or a day of the incident, showing bruises and puncture wounds on both Johnson's hands.

The prosecution inquired about Johnson's relationship with the Toole's and his other neighbors, which the witness described as good. "You don't get along with the Toole's, do you?" the prosecutor asked.  "I think the Toole's are good people," Johnson answered.

Johnson retired from the fire department soon after the allegations arose.   He is free on $10,000 bail.

Update 4/2/10:  Johnson was convicted in the fatal beating of his neighbor's puppy and was sentenced to three years of probation, 90 days of weekend jail time and 400 hours of community service working with dogs.

  (Photo courtesy of the Press-Enterprise)  Johnson apologized to the Toole family for the beating of their 6-month-old German shepherd mix, Karley.

Johnson was convicted in January of felony animal cruelty and using a deadly weapon.

  (Photo courtesy of Stan Lim/The Press-Enterprise) Johnson is hugged by daughter Erika Johnson after being sentenced to 90 days in jail on weekends, probation, anger management and community service. “I don’t hate animals,” he told the owners of the dog he killed with a rock. “I would never destroy an animal for no reason.”

At the sentencing, the Riverside courtroom was packed with animal rights activists and Johnson's supporters. Some animal advocates wore purple ribbons for Karley; others had on T-shirts that read, "Firefighters against animal abuse."

Judge J. Thompson Hanks announced the sentencing after statements by the Toole family, Johnson and Johnson's family.

Jeff Toole addressed Johnson directly.  "If she did this to you, her punishment would be death. And if I were a judge, that would be the punishment for you, too," Toole said. "You're a danger to society, and you need to be locked up before you hurt someone else. We've lived in fear, wondering what you'd do next. As far as your remorse, I don't buy it."

Johnson's family begged for leniency and requested probation for the former Los Angeles County assistant fire chief, who took a medical retirement after he was charged in the cruelty case. He faced a maximum sentence of four years and four months in state prison.

However, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Will Robinson asked the court for probation and 365 days in Riverside County jail.

  Photo courtesy of Stan Lim/The Press-Enterprise)  Shelley Toole, right, with husband Jeff and stepson Brandon, held a news conference after sentencing. Shelley Toole said she lost her job and stayed indoors because she was distraught after the dog’s death.

Hanks said he received numerous letters both in support of Johnson and condemning him. He said Johnson had no prior criminal record and had worked for the benefit of the community as a firefighter.

"You don't see this kind of outpouring from the community in many cases, including the death of children," Hanks said. "As a judge, I have to balance. I have to consider the conduct of the individual who did it and the appropriate punishment."

Johnson, who lives in the Woodcrest area south of Riverside, was ordered to work out his community service with the Humane Society or another dog-oriented organization. He also was ordered to attend a 16-week anger management program. His attorney, John Sweeney, said he is appealing the conviction.

Activists booed as Johnson left the courtroom, calling him "evil" and "puppy killer."

Johnson's wife and daughter apologized to the Toole family and said they, too, have endured stress in the wake of the dog's death. They said Johnson, a 30-year veteran firefighter, retired under a dark cloud and already has paid for what he did.

"I would not be who I am today without my father," said Erika Johnson, 28. "I stand here an adult, but I still need my father's guidance and support. He's been the model that I can be anything I want despite any adversity."

Johnson told the court he loves animals and that he always has had pets, including dogs and horses. He has spent his career as a firefighter helping others and he would continue to do so, he said. A retired Anaheim fire chief spoke on his behalf.

Johnson expressed remorse to the Toole family.  "I am extremely sorry for the stress I have caused in your lives," he said. "I would do anything to go back and change what happened. I don't hate animals. I love animals. I would never destroy an animal for no reason."

After Johnson spoke, Jeff and Shelley Toole and their son, Brandon, each read letters to him, saying he had ruined their lives by killing Karley.

  Photo courtesy of Stan Lim/The Press-Enterprise)  Friends and supporters of Johnson on left, Tom Roach, of Woodcrest, and Cathy Berndt, of Riverside, argue with Larry Toole, of Riverside, and his mother, Joan Lambert, of Las Vegas, outside the Riverside courthouse.

Jeff Toole faced Johnson and accused him of harassing the family since the day they moved into the neighborhood. He said he had pleaded with Johnson to say what they could do to be good neighbors but that Johnson reacted with rage.

Toole said his family members feared for their lives. He read a letter from his daughter, Heather, saying she contemplated suicide after her dog died because it created tension in her family during her senior year of high school.

Shelley Toole said she lost her job and stayed indoors because she was distraught and inconsolable after "Johnson killed my baby."

The Toole family, who moved from the neighborhood after Karley's death, had initially requested $250,000 in restitution. Prosecutors and Johnson's attorney agreed he would pay up to $1,000 in veterinary bills for the dog's treatment after the attack. Civil lawsuits the Tooles and Johnson filed against each other are pending.


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