By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Pinder yelled to St. Leon, telling him to hold tight, and summoned fire rescue. Two more officers, Angela Dearing and Donald Hines, arrived within minutes. Dearing and Pinder took defensive positions behind their cars, while Hines parked just east of the house and got behind St. Leon's truck.
Hines asked St. Leon how many dogs had attacked him. At that, the three pit bulls charged the cop. Pinder didn't have a clear shot, but Hines and Dearing started blasting, firing 11 times. From her house, Kathy Broderick heard the ruckus. "It sounded like a shooting gallery," she said later.
One dog, Killer, fell in the front yard. Two, Angel and Butch, retreated to the back. Hines climbed onto the car with St. Leon. Dearing then drove up to the Caprice with her cruiser and hustled St. Leon into the back seat for a ride to the fire rescue truck down the block. The dogs had gotten his feet, legs, arms, and face.
Officers still weren't sure of the dog situation, so Hines got on the roof of the house while others shut the gate. Kids were just getting off school buses in the neighborhood, so other officers on the scene patrolled for loose dogs. But the two they shot had simply staggered as far away from the front yard as they could get.
From her backyard, which borders Edouard's, Kathy Broderick watched Butch fall over, try to stand, then plop down for good. "The dog kept looking back at me with blood running out of his mouth like, 'Please help me,'" Broderick says on the phone, weeping openly. "It took him, like, 40 minutes to die. I was out there telling the cops, 'The person you should be shooting is the son of a bitch that lives here, not the dogs. '"
Long before firearms were drawn, the five-bedroom house at 10810 NW 20th St. had seemed a little off to others in the neighborhood.
Fort Lauderdale police detective Randy Pelham and his wife, Lori, moved to the area two years ago. They had been house shopping on a Sunday morning when they pulled up to a small neighborhood park at NW 19th Street and 108th Avenue to drink some coffee. As they rested on a bench, a man walked out of a nearby home and staked a For Sale sign in his yard, then walked back inside.
Randy knocked. The owner wanted $195,000. Randy said, "How about 190?" Done, just like that. Within a couple of months, they were out of their Dania Beach condo and hitting it off with their new next-door neighbors, Kevin and Kathy Broderick, who had lived in the neighborhood since 1994. Kathy's a voluble blond who works at the Home Depot; Kevin, a tall Sunrise cop with an easy smile. The two couples swapped house keys and barbecue invites. Early on, Lori Pelham remembers telling her husband: "I can't believe God has blessed us like this."
Then, mischief. Little stuff went wrong at first. Teenagers tossed the occasional beer bottle over the fence. Kevin Broderick recalls finding rocks in his pool, right under holes in the screen porch. Last summer, paintball stains peppered mailboxes, houses, cars, patios.
The chicanery emanated, the neighbors allege, from the house at 10810 NW 20th St. But back then, the resident wasn't Edouard. It was Doreen Campbell, a real estate appraiser. The low fence that separated her backyard from the Pelhams' and the Brodericks' wasn't much buffer for privacy or peace when Campbell's son's rock band would play in the garage or when his friends would descend for raucous parties.
Kathy Broderick recalls one such shindig. Wine cooler bottles kept flying over the fence and smashing against a neighbor's house, so she called the cops. The first officer there peered through the bushes and saw a kid with some kind of rifle -- a BB gun, maybe. The officer told Kathy to get back inside as he called for backup. "They came in very silent," she recalls. "A lot of them." Kathy, nosy, crawled across her backyard, belly-down, and looked through the chain-link fence. She didn't see much at first but heard what sounded like cops smashing in the front door, followed by some panicked punk running headlong through a glass door. "After that bam, you heard 'Freeze!' and then glass shattering, and then screaming," she says.
The worst came a few days after U.S. bombers began strafing Baghdad last year. The Pelhams were chatting in the family room when Randy looked up to see an orange laser dot on his wife's forehead. "I yelled, 'Hit the ground!'" says Randy, who was on Fort Lauderdale's SWAT team at the time.
He and a friend slunk around the block to the front of Campbell's house and saw through the window that she was working at her computer. Except she wasn't moving. And the screen saver was on. Some kid apparently had stuck a wig on a mannequin so Mom would appear to be home. "Tremendously strange," Randy Pelham recalls. "It was like something out of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. "
As in past visits, the cops who responded were little help. So the Pelhams and Brodericks were hopeful when Campbell moved out late last summer. Then came the October night when they heard construction noises coming from the house's backyard. They awoke the next morning, they say, to the sounds and smells of 14 barking, snarling, defecating pit bulls in massive wooden crates.