Lady Gaga's dogs recovered, but mystery only deepens about the violent theft

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Richard Winton
·5 min read
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MALIBU, CA --AUGUST 23, 2018 -- Pop star and Emmy Award-winning actress, Lady Gaga, is photographed in advance of her new film,
Pop star and Emmy Award-winning actress Lady Gaga in 2018. (Los Angeles Times)

A woman returned Lady Gaga's stolen dogs to the Los Angeles Police Department on Friday, but the mystery over their kidnapping and the shooting of their dog walker only intensified.

The dogs were stolen in a brazen, violent attack in Hollywood. At 9:40 p.m. Wednesday, two men leapt out of a white sedan in the 1500 block of North Sierra Bonita Avenue and demanded that Gaga’s dog walker, Ryan Fischer, hand over the musician’s three French bulldogs. As Fischer struggled with the robbers, one of them shot him once in the chest. The assailants grabbed two of the three dogs and sped off in the sedan, described by the police as a Nissan Altima.

Police say they have no suspects in the attack. Law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing, believe kidnapping the dogs was the motive but are not sure if the assailants knew the dogs belonged to the pop star.

They are reviewing license plates of cars in the area at the time to see if they can come up with clues, the sources said. They are also looking for security video.

Here is what we know from Times coverage:

What do we know about the woman who returned the dogs?

Capt. Jonathan Tippet, who leads the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division, said a woman walked into the department’s Olympic station with the dogs about 6 p.m. Friday. She said she believed they belonged to Gaga.

Detectives assigned to the case and representatives for Gaga went to the station and confirmed the dogs were the singer’s pets, Tippet said.

It appeared that the woman, whom Tippet would not name, was not involved in the robbery or associated with the assailants, although the captain cautioned that the investigation was still underway.

“I don’t want to get into any discussions about her or where the dogs were actually located,” Tippet said. “We’re providing very little information on this because this is an ongoing investigation and because we are also concerned about her safety.”

A source, who spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity, said the woman found the dogs tied to a pole.

Lady Gaga had issued a $500,000 reward for the return of the dogs. Tippet declined to discuss the reward, but he said Gaga’s representatives were in contact with the woman.

What did we know from witnesses and videos on the incident?

“They had a motive, and they didn’t care,” said Carlos Pantoja, 29, who said he witnessed the shooting from his porch before calling 911 and comforting the dog walker, Ryan Fischer, on the street.

In the video, one of the assailants shouts. “Give it up,” as the pair jumped out of a white Nissan Altima in the 1500 block of North Sierra Bonita Avenue — right in front of Pantoja’s home, which has an Amazon Ring camera on the porch. Pantoja shared the video with The Times in hopes it could help bring the perpetrators to justice.

A struggle immediately ensued from there. “Help me!” screamed Fischer, who is expected to recover and whom Lady Gaga thanked as a “hero” in a post to her 46 million Instagram followers Friday. He could not be reached for comment.

In the video, a single shot rings out, and Fischer screams again. One of the dogs whines as it’s taken away.

“Oh, my God. Help me!” Fischer screams. “Help me. I’ve been shot. I’ve been shot. Oh my God.”

“We’re calling 911 for you!” yells a neighbor.

“I’m bleeding out,” Fischer says.

The scene is partially obscured in the video by fencing and bushes, but Fischer’s screams capture the intensity of the attack and his efforts to hold on to the dogs. Pantoja described the aftermath as deeply disturbing — something he’s still working through in his head.

Pantoja had been watching a movie with his boyfriend inside when he heard screaming outside, then the word “help,” he said. He went to his front door, opened it, and immediately saw the gunman put his arm out and open fire, he said. “I see him shoot.”

Momentarily stunned as the robbers peeled away, Pantoja said he then told his boyfriend to stay inside as he rushed outside and began to call 911. Soon, he and another neighbor were at Fischer’s side.

While the neighbor grabbed a third dog that was not taken away from Fischer, Pantoja said he rubbed Fischer’s leg and urged him to fight any desire to “fade out.”

What are some theories about what happened?

Thefts of purebred animals, which can fetch high prices even when they aren’t attached to pop stars, are not unheard of. And the LAPD in recent weeks has expressed concern about criminals in the city becoming more brazen about street robberies — which have been ticking up with the easing of pandemic-related lockdowns, including in the same general area as the dog theft.

Earlier this month, LAPD Chief Michel Moore highlighted a string of Wilshire Boulevard robberies where individuals were robbing people of Rolex watches. In a Jan. 30 incident also caught on camera, two attackers also jumped out of a white sedan near Melrose Avenue and North Vista Street — about a mile south in a straight line from where the dog theft occurred — and tackled a man before stealing his watch.

Police sources said the pedigree and associated value of the animals could have been the basis for the robbery, but the level of violence used adds to their speculation that the attackers knew there could be a star-powered windfall associated with their return.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.