There was nothing James Woods could do.
He screamed; he pleaded. “Please don’t harm my dogs,” he begged police, who moments earlier had barged into his east-side home looking for marijuana.
Woods was forced into a corner last week when the first shot rang out – a 12-gauge shotgun. Woods’ young pit bull, Tank, who neighbors and witnesses say was confined to a locked fence outside and unable to harm anyone, lay dead in a puddle of blood, shot in the face.
Fearing police would hurt his two other dogs, who were inside the house, Woods cried out: “Please! They won’t hurt you! Stop chasing them! They’re just scared. “
Witnesses told a consistent story: Police chased the dogs, Hump and Janey, around the house, shooting Woods’ longtime companions as they fled.
“They came in like they were shooting deer,” Woods said.
Janey, a small, older pit bull, dragged a trail of blood around the house until she finally collapsed.
“They shot her four times as she was trying to get away,” Woods said, his pale blue eyes welling up. “She didn’t have a chance. It just isn’t right.”
Neighbors said the three dogs, which included a German shepherd mix, were tame and friendly.
“They were good dogs,” a neighbor said.
Police didn’t respond to calls or emails for comment.
Woods, a financially struggling jack-of-all-trades, spent the next two days in jail, grieving his companions.
His friend, Scott Kraz, photographed the carcasses in hopes of proving that police shot the dogs from behind.
“From the position of the two dogs inside the building, they were running away from the door, away from the police,” Kraz said.
After collecting the evidence, Kraz buried the three dogs in the front yard of the home, where Woods now lives alone, with a heavy heart.
On Tuesday afternoon, Woods finished up a long day of trimming trees and sparked a cigarette.
“They killed my dogs,” he said, shaking his head. “The Detroit Police Department murdered my dogs.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.