Case Snapshot
Case ID: 12971
Classification: Shooting
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Saturday, Mar 18, 2006

County: Alameda

Charges: Felony Non-CTA
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Antonio Russell

There are 33 seconds Mike Henrickson will never forget in his lifetime.

Henrickson said it was in those quick seconds nearly two years ago that Antonio Russell hit him over the head with a pistol, knocked him to his knees, demanded his wallet and then shot - and killed - Henrickson's beloved 6-year-old pit bull, Benny.

"In all of my 49 years of life, 33 seconds is all it took to flip my world upside down. I'd give anything to have my dog back," Henrickson wrote in a victim's impact statement that was read by his best friend to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson earlier this week.

Benny died in his owner's arms that night - March 18, 2006 - after the dog took a bullet between the shoulder blades while protecting his owner.

The dog was a companion and service dog to Henrickson, who is legally handicapped following a stroke eight years ago.

The crime on Fontaine Street was caught on a neighbor's outside security camera and reviewed by authorities. Under a plea agreement, Russell is expected to be sentenced March 14 to 22 years in prison for 23 criminal charges, including cruelty to an animal, a string of robberies, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, said Deputy District Attorney Jason Chin.

Russell's prior conviction for drugs was considered in this case, authorities said. Russell, of San Francisco, remains in custody on a no-bail hold. His public defender did not return a call for comment.

Russell's sentencing was expected Tuesday but was delayed. Still, Henrickson was allowed to read his statement to the judge and Russell.

"My pain and all of (the) other victims that you chose, all have a lifetime sentence remembering you, and the terrorizing you did," the statement said, referring to Russell.

For Henrickson, who retired as an auto mechanic following his stroke, the terrorizing began before nightfall on March 18, 2006.

On that night, Henrickson, Benny and Rosie - Henrickson's other pit bull - were out on their routine walk to King Estates Middle School, where Henrickson would play fetch with Benny, while Rosie ran off leash.

Henrickson had made the walk for 11 years.

He knew the streets well. He felt comfortable walking his dogs, even alone, sometimes well past midnight.

As he was returning home with the dogs, police said, a man ran up behind them on Fontaine Street and struck the back of Henrickson's head with a pistol, knocking him to his knees.

"Benny looked at me, listened to my voice, knew I was in trouble and took it from there," Henrickson said following the incident.

The 85-pound dog, on a retractable leash, lunged at the gunman as Henrickson pleaded with him not to shoot.

Rosie barked wildly as Benny chased the gunman into the middle of Fontaine, which is parallel to Interstate 580 near Keller Avenue in East Oakland.

The gunman shot, and Benny fell to the ground.

Then Henrickson said the gunman shot at him, but hit the neighbor's car instead.

Wounded, the dog looked at Henrickson, "Like he was saying, "Did I do OK, Dad? Did I do good?" Henrickson said following the incident. "I told him, 'You're a good boy, Ben. Don't die.'"

The gunman fled to a waiting car. He didn't get Henrickson's wallet - or the $61 inside.

A week later, Russell was arrested in Richmond in connection with more than a dozen Oakland street robberies in March 2006, police said.

Multiple victims and witnesses identified Russell at a lineup at Oakland police headquarters, police said.

Police said Benny was not Russell's only victim. One robbery victim was wounded by a bullet that ricocheted and others had their wallets, cash and credit and ATM cards stolen, police said.

Police said it is highly unusual for robbers to mug someone walking with dogs, particularly two big pit bulls. Police also said it's not a very smart move.

"If they were smart ..." Sgt. Caesar Basa said, following the incident, "they wouldn't be criminals."

References

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