GROVER BEACH, Calif. - Weeks after the death of a Grover Beach man mauled by a former police dog, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office filed felony charges against a former city police officer who owned the animal.
The District Attorney filed a two-count felony criminal complaint stating Alex Paul Geiger knew his dog, a 2 1/2-year-old Belgian Malinois was dangerous. The animal was trained for police dog work in Kings County, near Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley. When Geiger moved to Grover Beach, he purchased the dog and signed a waiver releasing liability because the animal had shown some aggressive tendencies during training.
The December attack happened on a quiet Grover Beach street, resulting in the death of Geiger’s neighbor David Fear. Fear had rushed to assist another neighbor, Betty Long, 85, who was the first person attacked by Geiger’s dog. Fear died a few days later in the hospital from the traumatic injuries he suffered. Long continues to recover in a rehabilitation facility.
The District Attorney's formal complaint said Geiger "failed to maintain control of a dangerous animal" which led to Fear’s death and Long’s injuries.
"It's a good first step, and it needed to happen," says Diana Smaw, Fear's sister-in-law.
But the family still believes Geiger received preferential treatment because he was a police officer.
"If it had been a child killed he would have been taken in that day," says Terry Fear, who lost her husband and could barely speak. "We were going to retire last year, and now this is my retirement."
"If a drunk driver kills someone with their car, they get manslaughter," says Smaw. "If a mans dogs kill someone, it should be manslaughter."
Geiger resigned from the Grover Beach Police Department and moved from the neighborhood shortly after the attack. The District Attorney's Office has requested an arrest warrant against him.
Prosecutors believe this is the first time a dog mauling has led to a death in the county.
If found guilty of the charges filed, Geiger would face up to a maximum of 3 years and 8 months in prison.
The City of Grover Beach's City Manager released a statement:
"The City of Grover Beach is aware of the District Attorney's Office determination to file charges against Mr. Alex Geiger in the dog attack incident that caused the death of Mr. David Fear and the injury of Ms, Betty Long.
Mr. Geiger resigned as a police officer on February 1 and is no longer employed by the City of Grover Beach.
The City continues to express its condolences to the family of Mr. Fear and wishes Ms. Betty Long a speedy recovery."