David Gomez is a man who enjoys his job.
That’s evident even when he’s trying to diffuse a dangerous situation, as when two dogs — both aggressively barking, snapping and/or foaming at the mouth — lunged at him one night last summer in a Meridian neighborhood.
Gomez used voice commands, a collapsible baton, pepper spray and, finally, his cruiser to control and corral the boxer and pit bull/American Stafford mix.
“How ya like me now?” he asks, almost gleefully, in a video of the incident after both dogs follow his calm, repeated command to “load up” into the back of the vehicle. It was a clever resolution to a volatile situation.
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The 44-year-old worked for a decade as an engineer at Micron before joining the Meridian Police Department seven years ago.
A recording of the July 16, 2015, encounter, captured on his body camera, was made public by an Idaho woman who promotes training police officers in nonlethal methods of dealing with aggressive dogs. The video went viral, and Gomez has received praise following mentions by multiple media outlets, from The New York Post to The DoDo (a website for animal lovers).
“He just absolutely perfectly handled the situation,” said Edith Williams, who manages the Facebook group Idahoans for Non-lethal Canine Encounter Training and does fundraising to cover the cost of training for officers.
Williams attends police dog-handling trainings and communicates regularly with officers around the state. That’s how she heard about Gomez. She filed a public record request for the body camera video and then posted it to YouTube.
In the police report on the incident, Gomez said he was dispatched to a report of vicious dogs near Greenhead Street and Pelican Way in Meridian after a woman said her Pomeranian was bitten by one of the loose dogs.
I was bitten seven or eight times growing up. For me, when I see a dog come up ... a bite does not equal my life is in danger because I’ve been bitten before, and I’m still just fine.
Officer David Gomez
Gomez said he received about 90 minutes of dog-handling training a couple of years ago from a fellow officer who had gone through more intensive training.
He was surprised at how well pointing his baton at the dogs worked in getting them to back off. When that failed, a 2-second shot of pepper spray at one of the dogs did the trick.
He was stalling, trying to keep the dogs with him — but away from others — until animal control officers arrived.
“I was just dealing with each moment and figuring out how to solve the situation,” Gomez said. “They kept on wanting to leave me. I could picture them getting a hold of a kid, which would be really bad.”
The dogs had slipped out of a yard a few blocks away. The owners came to take them home, and Gomez cited both owners with a misdemeanor: dog rushing a person.
“I think they didn’t understand the level to which their dogs were aggressive,” he said.
Gomez is a student resource officer at Mountain View High School during the school year. He works patrol shifts during the summer.
He has a lot of personal and professional experience with dogs. He and his family have had purebreds and mutts, he said.
He said he knows some people, including a teacher at the school where he works, believe that police hate dogs. Officers do not have to wait until they are bitten to take lethal action.
When would he reach that point?
“I’ve played it through my mind a thousand times. It would take a lot. I’d have to feel my life is in danger,” he said.
Police training planned this fall
An expert from Canine Encounters in Texas is returning to the Treasure Valley for a “Train the Trainer” workshop on Oct. 10-11, training advocate Edith Williams said. Participants will be certified training officers who can educate their peers, and Meridian police are handling registrations.
“It’s a 12-hour class and it’s already POST-approved,” Williams said.
The cost to train up to 30 officers will be about $4,000. Williams is already beating the bushes for donations and sponsors. She’s considering selling T-shirts — possibly with “How ya like me now?” on them — to raise money for the training.
Want to donate? Here’s a link to the GoFundMe account https://www.gofundme.com/inlcet