Opening statements and testimony began Tuesday in the trial of Alex Geiger, the former Grover Beach police officer charged in connection with a deadly dog attack back in 2016.
The attack killed David Fear and seriously injured his neighbor, Betty Long.
The prosecution began their statements with the questions, what did Geiger know and when did he know it?
They plan on structuring testimony around these questions to prove Geiger knew his dog was dangerous, but the defense came ready to fight back, objecting to seemingly every question they could.
During opening statements Tuesday, the prosecution laid out their multi-step plan for witness testimony that includes questioning Alex Geiger’s plans for his Belgian Malinois, Neo, how he acquired the dog, what neighbors had to say about Geiger’s dogs, and if there were any warning signs that the animals could be vicious.
Attorney Stephen Wagner says witnesses will also testify about warnings issued to Geiger about the fence and gate area at his home and what may have lead to the dogs escaping. Wagner also alleged that the Grover Beach Police Department did not actively engage in scene preservation or evidence collection.
The defense fired back in their opening statements, saying San Luis Obispo County Animal Services was the lead investigator on the case. Attorney Melina Benninghoff said there’s no “conspiracy” by Grover Beach Police to hide evidence or cover up anything.
We’re expected to hear from both the police department and animal services during the trial.
The first witness on the stand Tuesday was Lt. Jay Brock, a K-9 trainer and owner of a police service dog school. Geiger and Neo went through Lt. Brock’s basic patrol course that includes 200 hours of training.
Lt. Brock said at the time, the dog never showed a bad temperament and explained the dispositions of the breed. He said a Malinois trained as a K-9 would make a bad pet, because they can become destructive, whether that’s digging outside its kennel or tearing up plants. He said he’s even seen them chew on kennels and water bowls.
Geiger and Neo completed Brock’s course in December of 2015. David Fear died from his dog attack injuries one year later.
When asked about the first day of the trial, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow says they typically do not comment publically during jury trials.
Alex Geiger’s attorney said she’s happy with Tuesday’s proceedings but is frustrated with what she believes is an overlap of the civil and criminal cases against Geiger.
“With this district attorney being very receptive to people who put pressure on him to do right and wrong, this case is one that should have been a civil case alone and my client never should have been prosecuted,” Benninghoff said.
Later on in this trial, we’re expected to get a first look at the body camera footage from the police officers that responded to the scene back in December of 2016 as well as Betty Long’s 911 call.
Geiger’s brother was accused by the prosecution of talking to one of the jurors during a break Tuesday. Both the juror and his brother were questioned in closed session. The judge reminded everyone afterward not to talk to jurors to ensure a fair trial.
Court will be back in session Wednesday at 1:30.
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