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UPDATE: Former officer takes the stand in deadly Grover Beach dog attack trial

Posted: 6:47 PM, Mar 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-07 17:00:24-04

UPDATE (6:45 p.m.) – Jurors heard from former Grover Beach police officer Alex Geiger Thursday afternoon, several hours after the prosecution rested its criminal case against him involving a deadly dog attack in Grover Beach.

Geiger is facing two felony counts of failing to maintain control of a deadly or dangerous animal and a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter for the Dec. 13, 2016 attack.

The incident:

Geiger’s dogs reportedly got out of a gap in the backyard fencing of a home he was renting in Grover Beach. One of his dogs, Neo, a former K9 with the Exeter Police Department, was blamed for the attack that killed 64-year-old David Fear and seriously injured Betty Long, who was 85 at the time.

Geiger was not at home at the time of the attack. He resigned from the police department in February 2017.

Neo was euthanized after the attack and his other dog, Rolo, was transferred out of Geiger’s custody.

“Lack of evidence”

After the prosecution finished presenting their case, Thursday morning, Geiger’s attorney, Melina S. Benninghoff, immediately filed a motion to dismiss the case citing “lack of evidence” during the trial.

Benninghoff noted in her arguments for dismissal that the circumstances, in this case, are “significantly tragic.” However, she stated, “There has been insufficient evidence presented to prove her client knew the animal was dangerous.”

The prosecutor refuted that claim citing various testimony presented throughout the trial.

After hearing the arguments on both sides, the motion to dismiss was denied by San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Duffy.

Geiger takes the stand:

After a recess, Geiger took the stand and answered questions for about an hour regarding Neo’s training, behavior with other dogs and behavior while on duty during Geiger’s time at the Exeter Police Department.

While on the stand, Geiger rarely stumbled and looked at his attorney and the jury while answering questions.

First weeks with Neo:

When his attorney asked him questions about how much instruction he had received before receiving Neo, he said he barely received any training.

Geiger said he remember exactly how many hours of training he completed with Neo during the first two weeks of training but he spent three to four weeks bonding with the dog.

After the initial bonding period, they started narcotics training, which lasted about five weeks. Geiger then said they started patrol/obedience training for another five weeks.

Neo’s home life:

Geiger said he had one roommate, two dogs and one cat at the time he received Neo.

He said one of the dogs, Snickers, and the cat, Kit Kat, were exclusively indoor animals so they almost never interacted with Neo.

His other dog, Rolo, interacted with Neo the most and they would play together outside, he said.

When he first received Neo, he said he tried to establish a routine by feeding and playing with him around the same time every day.

In the beginning, he said he kept Neo inside a kennel outside in the backyard, unless he was letting him out to play for 15 to 20 minutes. When he would let him out to play, he was always under his supervision, Geiger testified.

As the two bonded more, Geiger said he would let Neo roam around outside and even play with Rolo while he was inside using the bathroom.

When describing his relationship with his other dog, Rolo, Geiger said they were like “brother and sister.”

His attorney asked him if he ever received any instruction about letting his K9 interact with other dogs. He said “no” and that he even saw other K9 dogs interact with children on social media posts.

Neo’s behavior:

Overall, Geiger testified that Neo was very well behaved and never tried to escape while he was in his custody.

He said Neo never bit anyone, whether he was on or off-duty, and the dog never had any issues with his roommate or other dogs.

While on duty, Geiger said he was with Neo at all times and he was the only person who gave the K9 instruction/orders.

Neo was a certified K9 for about eight to 10 months with the Exeter Police Department.

Following Thursday’s testimony, District Attorney Stephen Wagner said he had no comment on the case.

Geiger’s attorney said the case went “great” Thursday.

The trial is expected to resume the week of April 8 after a planned, one-week hiatus. Once back in session, Geiger’s testimony will resume and cross-examination by the prosecution will take place.


 

(2:07 p.m.) – The trial in a deadly dog attack case out of Grover Beach is nearing the end of testimony after a busy day of dueling experts in the courtroom.

The prosecution rested its criminal case against Alex Geiger Thursday morning in a San Luis Obispo courtroom after the cross-examination of their final witness, and Geiger took the stand in the afternoon.

Geiger has been charged with two felony counts of failing to maintain control of a deadly or dangerous animal and a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter following the December 13, 2016 attack in Grover Beach that killed David Fear, 64, and seriously injured Betty Long, who was 85 at the time.

With the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, Geiger’s attorney, Melina S. Benninghoff, immediately filed a motion to dismiss the case citing “a lack of evidence” during the trial, which started two-and-a-half weeks ago.

Benninghoff noted in her arguments for dismissal that the circumstances, in this case, are “significantly tragic.” However, she stated, “There has been insufficient evidence presented to prove her client knew the animal was dangerous.”

The prosecutor refuted that claim citing various testimony presented throughout the trial.

After hearing the arguments on both sides, the motion to dismiss was denied by San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Duffy.

The defense is now calling its own witnesses and experts to the stand.

Geiger’s dogs reportedly got out of a gap in the backyard fencing of the home he was renting in Grover Beach at the time of the attack. One dog, a Belgian Malinois named Neo, was a former K9 with the Exeter Police Department. Neo was blamed for the attack on Fear and Long, who were neighbors.

Geiger, who was a police officer for Grover Beach, was not at home at the time.  Geiger helped train Neo and subsequently had purchased him as a personal pet from his previous employer before moving to Grover Beach.

Neo was euthanized after the attack. The other dog, a German Shepherd, was transferred out of Geiger’s custody.

Geiger resigned from the police department in February 2017.

Closing arguments in the criminal trial are anticipated for April 9 after a planned, one-week hiatus next week.

 

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