Polk man tries choking out sheriff's K-9 after breaking into pizza shop

Posted at 7:20 PM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-15 19:20:38-04

A Polk County man tried to steal from a pizza shop, but he didn’t get very far. In fact, he didn’t even pass the counter before a police K-9 took a bite out of his leg.

The incident happened around 2 a.m. Sunday morning at the Hungry Howies on Cypress Gardens Rd. in Winter Haven.

Investigators say Joseph Pellegrini broke the glass door to the shop, well after it had closed for the evening.

“He gets up, punches the door two more times, kicks it once and the door shatters,” said Jesse Davidson, who was walking home from work when he heard the commotion and called 9-1-1.

“They sent the dog in and 30 seconds later he’s screaming for three or four minutes,” said Davidson.

Surveillance video captured the painful encounter. You can see the police K-9, named Recon, saunter in and take down the suspected thief.

Investigators said Pellegrini fought back and started to choke the dog.

“They say he’s one of the meanest K-9’s they have,” said Robin Angle, Manager of Hungry Howies who rushed to the store when she was notified of the alarm.

“I thought they were tazing him at first because he was screaming,” she said.

Eventually, Recon’s handler came in to the store to break the two up, and is seen on video delivering a hard kick to Pellegrini.

Sheriff Grady Judd stands by the kick 100 percent.

“Well we don’t kick easy,” he said. “If they need a kick, we kick them as hard as necessary.”

Deputies arrested Pellegrini without any further issues.

ABC Action News is told the suspect suffered a significant bite wound to the leg, but Recon the dog is going to be just fine.