Six-year-old Ruger was a good boy, his owners say — a friendly dog who never showed any signs of aggression. "If there was any problem, it was that he was too friendly and had too much exuberance," says Bob Holtz, who adopted the the Australian cattle dog, a former rescue, five years ago. "The most he'd want to do is get out of the yard."
Usually, it wasn't a problem. At their home in Manchester, Holtz and his partner Jackie Dukart had a big backyard, where Ruger was free to roam. He was content to stay there, they say, unless he was chasing a deer or a raccoon.
But last Wednesday, October 4, Dukart stepped outside to see Ruger limping slowly up to the house, a trail of blood behind him. "Ruger's been shot," she gasped. She hastily wrapped the dog in towels and rushed him to the nearest emergency veterinarian — flagging down a police car she saw outside, which escorted their car to the facility with flashing lights and sirens. Ruger died there hours later.
By the time Dukart and Holtz returned home, they saw six or seven police officers gathered at the home of a neighbor. They would later learn that their neighbors had called the police after hearing gunshots — and that someone had traced the bloody trail back to the home of a retired cop who lived down the street.
Manchester Police are not identifying the shooter. But they say he admitted to firing on the dog — and told them Ruger had been aggressive.
[The] resident reported that he was in his driveway when a dog running at large approached him in an aggressive manner, growling and barking. The resident, who felt threatened and feared that the dog was going to attack him, shot the dog.
The incident remains under investigation and will be presented to the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review.
But Daniel Kolde, an attorney for Holtz and Dukart, says that his investigation so far has suggested some facts that complicate the narrative.
Kolde says that a witness told police that the retired cop went to get his gun before shooting the dog.
The law allows that you can fire on a dog if you're in imminent threat of attack, he says — but if you are able to go elsewhere to get a firearm, it's hard to argue the threat is imminent.
Kolde also notes that, despite initially saying he could have it, the police have refused to give him their report on the incident, even after he filed a Sunshine request. (They're saying the investigation is still open.)
Says Kolde, "Based on my information and people I've spoken with, the witnesses are telling a much different story than Manchester PD. After shooting Ruger, the shooter didn't call the police but rather just went about his day. Why didn't he call the police rather than leaving Ruger to wander around and suffer? Witnesses are telling me that the shooter said to them that he 'went and got his gun' before shooting Ruger.
"And, my clients and witnesses are both telling me that the officers on the scene were saying that the shooter was denying that he shot Ruger for almost an hour even though their was blood all over his driveway. From what I'm being told, all of this information was given to Manchester PD in statements that they will not give me and which would contradict Manchester PD's statements to the press."
He's calling for a full investigation into what happened.
"We're disappointed that he hasn't been arrested," he says. "We want this guy prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
Holtz and Dukart are questioning not only why Ruger got shot — but whether their neighbor should be prosecuted for discharging his firearm in a residential neighborhood.
"I want my neighborhood to be safe," Holtz says. "We have three little grandchildren who live around the corner. I wouldn't have guessed in a million years that a police officer would shoot a gun so close to houses and children. Hopefully it won't be a person who gets hit next time."
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