Deputies found the man’s body outside the home, with what looked like bite marks “all over his body,” Ray County Sheriff Scott Childers said.
Childers said he shot and killed the two dogs, a German shepherd and mastiff, after they behaved aggressively.
The delivery driver was about 50, Childers said. Authorities are waiting to identify the man until the medical examiner has determined the cause of death and notified the man’s family.
“We’re deeply saddened by [Monday’s] tragic incident involving a member of our Amazon family and will be providing support to the team and the driver’s loved ones,” Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski said in a statement.
Woman charged with manslaughter after dogs kill state worker
Dog attacks are commonly reported by delivery workers, but usually result in injury, not death.
In 2021, more than 5,400 postal workers were attacked by dogs, according to the U.S. Postal Service. Kansas City, Mo., had the third-highest number of attacks on letter carriers, with 48 attacks last year.
And one insurer in Colorado found that dog bites accounted for the third most-common injury among Amazon delivery contractors there, according to a 2022 study of injury data by the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions.
Bites sent an Ohio driver to the hospital in August, led a driver this summer to post a video on TikTok about the company’s alleged response to his bite, and once caused Amazon to suspend deliveries to a Florida neighborhood where a worker was attacked, according to news reports.
The Postal Service recommends having dogs inside the house, behind a fence or on a leash when a mail carrier comes to the house, and tells residents to track packages or mail so they know when it’s being delivered.
It’s normal for dogs to be concerned about strangers in their space, and even dogs without a history of aggressive behavior can become protective or cause an accident by being playful, so all dog owners should take precautions to protect mail carriers, said David Rosengard, managing attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
“We, any of us who have dogs, need to be setting them up for success,” he said.
Owners should have a place for packages to be delivered that isn’t accessible to their dogs, whether a front porch, lockbox, or other drop-off area, and keep dogs inside when a delivery is coming. If necessary, they should get a P.O. box.
Meet Chris Smalls, the man who organized Amazon workers in New York
It was late afternoon or early evening Monday when the worker in Missouri dropped off a package at the house, which authorities later found by the front door. The police had not yet found any neighbors who had seen or heard anything unusual, Childers said.
The house had a fence with a latched gate and “Beware of Dog” signs. It also had a doggy door that allowed the dogs to freely enter the fenced yard, the sheriff said. Neighbors’ homes sit on either side and across the street.
A few neighbors noticed the Amazon van that was sitting in front of the house for two hours and reported it to police about 7 p.m.
When deputies arrived about a half-hour later, they found the driver’s body lying in the grass in the middle of the yard, Childers said.
“It’s tragic all the way around,” Childers, who had spoken with the man’s family, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The loss of a human life is obviously the number one most important thing. It’s horrible to see that. … It’s heartbreaking.”
The deputies found the dogs behind the home’s fence, which had a latched gate. The dogs behaved aggressively, the mastiff appearing ready to attack a deputy, Childers said; the deputy shot the dog and both dogs ran into the house.
When the medical examiner and detectives arrived to begin investigating, Childers said he went in the house and found the dogs, which again responded aggressively, baring their teeth. He estimated the mastiff weighed about 80 pounds and the German shepherd about 50.
Childers decided to kill them, citing the need to protect law enforcement and medical staff who were going in and out of the house, the potential risk of the dogs escaping the house, and the difficulty of shutting them in a room.
“I had to make a quick decision because I had people coming in on the scene very quickly,” Childers said. “But also, I can tell you due to the nature of the case, the dogs would’ve been put down anyhow. It was inevitable.”
After a dog bites someone, a court usually determines through a legal process whether the dog should be deemed dangerous. A judge can order an owner to take steps such as muzzling or confining their dog or order the dog be euthanized, said Rosengard, the attorney.
In a case where a dog has killed a person, a court could “very well” conclude the dog should be put down, he said.
Encounters between dogs and police are so common that the Department of Justice regularly publishes guidance for law enforcement agencies.
It isn’t uncommon for dogs to be shot by law enforcement officers, and courts generally allow it if the use of force is deemed reasonable, Rosengard said.
“Their question isn’t so much did either of these dogs [kill the man]… the question is just, would a reasonable officer in that yard at that moment believe these dogs were a threat?” he said. “And if the answer is yes, the court is likely going to say that is a reasonable use of deadly force.”
Though dog bites are fairly common, particularly of postal workers, police officers, and others who approach homes, a killing is unusual, he said.
Relatively few states require dog training for police; meanwhile, social media coverage of deadly police-canine encounters has led to increased public interest, with some dog owners calling for increased training in recent years, according to a 2019 Department of Justice report.
The sheriff said he is an animal lover and knew people would question his choice.
“There’s things in this job we have to do that we don’t always like, but it’s part of what we have to do,” he said. “You try and make all the right decisions.”
Childers said his office had spoken with the homeowners. No criminal charges have been filed against them, although they could face charges if authorities determine that either of their dogs attacked the man.
“There’s a lot of investigating left to be done, and I think this case is really going to open up a lot of questions,” Childers said. “Obviously, homeowners have the right to have animals that can protect themselves and their property … [but] this was just a man trying to do his job who lost his life.”