Oakland Raiders linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong is being investigated for barking at a police dog before Sunday's game between the Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Armstrong allegedly lifted his jersey, pounded his chest and barked at police K-9 Banditt before the kickoff, Penn Live reported.
Armstrong could be charged with taunting a police animal, which is a third degree felony in Pennsylvania. According to the law, "it is unlawful for any person to willfully or maliciously taunt, torment, tease, beat, kick or strike a police animal."
The crime carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000.
Banditt, the 4-year-old German Shepherd, is an explosive detection and patrol dog. His handler, Allegheny County Sheriff's Deputy Maria Watts, told WTAE.com that she heard Armstrong "barking really loudly and screaming 'Hey dog, hey dog,'" as the players left the locker room and were walking towards the field.
She said that after Armstrong started barking, several other players with him also started to bark, clap and make "agitation noises towards my dog."
She said that Banditt became "very agitated" and she had pull him away from all the noise. "He obviously wants me to let him go because he's being agitated. I imagine with his training and experience he would have gone to his target who was taunting him." When asked what he could have done, Watts said, "I don't even want to go there."
Watts, who has patrolled Steelers games for nine years, said no one had ever done anything like this before. "All our [Steelers] players are gentleman. They all refer to Banditt as Big B."
Watts said the incident was surprising to her because "usually if people don't like us — law enforcement — they love the dogs. For him to be taunted and teased in such a manner was pretty surprising."
"The dog was going crazy," chief deputy Kevin Kraus told the BBC.
"The deputy was trying to control the dog the best she could. We were immediately notified about the incident, and we immediately initiated a criminal investigation into the matter," he said.
Kraus said he discussed the possibility of pressing charges against Armstrong with the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday.
He said the Sheriff's Office will review evidence including camera footage, eyewitness accounts and a statement from Watts to determine probable cause, Penn Live reported.
The Oakland Raiders lost the game, 38-35.
The Sheriff's Office and the Oakland Raiders did not respond to a request for comment.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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