PARMA, Ohio – Surveillance video released by police in Parma, Ohio shows how a Cleveland man went from hero to the wrong side of the law in the span of just minutes after police say he used a hammer to rescue two dogs left in a car.
"I wanted to get that puppy out of there and make sure that he was okay," said Richard Hill. "So at that point I decided to grab a hammer and went ahead and broke the window."
Hill said the incident began around 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Walmart on Ridgewood Road. Hill described noticing a car alarm going off as he walked into the store. Upon exiting, about 30 minutes later, he said the car alarm continued to sound so he went closer to investigate. Hill said he noticed several bystanders surrounding the car telling him two dogs were inside.
He said he told Walmart personnel to make an announcement while a bystander called 911. Hill admits he knew police were on their way when he grabbed his hammer and smashed the window. He told WJW he decided to act because one of the dogs, that appeared to be a puppy, wasn't moving.
"The officer was upset with me, told me that I needed to wait on him, that I should not have done that," said Hill.
Police have a different account of events, arguing they were informed about the dogs at 4:08 p.m. and arrived just minutes later at 4:12 p.m. Authorities said it was not an abnormally hot day and the sunroof and windows were open or cracked.
"The temperature that day was about 78 degrees," said Sgt. Dan Ciryak. "So we don't condone leaving dogs in hot cars but what's reasonable and not unreasonable?" It's not known how hot it was inside the car before Hill broke the window.
When asked if Hill should have been cited, Ciryak continued, "What do you say to the victim? She went in to buy one item. It's not like she came out with a cart full of items."
The owner of the dogs, Carly Hartman, told WJW over the phone, "I love my dogs, would never put them in danger."
Hartman said she went into the store for less than 15 minutes and now cannot drive her new car, which police describe as a 2018 Audi, because the passenger window is shattered.
Police cited Hill for criminal damaging, yet he says he does not have regrets about how he acted.
"I even told the officer I would do it again, in a heartbeat," Hill said.