A retired St. Louis County police officer is being charged with animal cruelty after he shot and killed his neighbors' dog in Manchester last month.
County prosecutors filed the class-A misdemeanor charge against Barry Armfield, records show, alleging that the 62-year-old "purposely caused injury" to Ruger, his neighbors' Australian cattle dog.
Dan Kolde, the attorney representing Ruger's owners, had pushed for punishment after officers on the scene of the October 4 shooting failed to arrest Armfield.
"My clients are taking some small comfort in the fact that Mr. Armfield is going to have to answer for his crime," Kolde says. "At the same time, we remain disappointed that he was not immediately arrested on the night of the shooting.
"For Mr. Armfield to shoot Ruger simply because he allegedly 'don't want no dog on my property' is callous and coldhearted. Ruger was a good dog, a beloved family member, and did nothing to deserve the fear, suffering and death that Barry Armfield inflicted upon him."
Reached at home yesterday, Armfield said he had learned about the charge earlier that day and didn't yet have an attorney. He said he felt bad about the shooting, but that he absolutely felt "justified."
"I was a police officer for 40 years," he says. "I had incidents with dogs in the past. But I did everything that I know of that I could. I backed up and the dog advanced. I didn't have any farther back I could go."
Armfield says he absolutely was not drinking on the evening of the incident, despite the responding officer's report that he smelled an odor of alcohol and that Armfield's eyes appeared "glassy, bloodshot."
Asked why he initially told officers he didn't know anything about a shooting, Armfield says he was bitten by a tick last year and suffers from a condition that affects his memory and makes him paranoid. "It's normally not a problem until I get in a position where I'm surrounded," he says, blaming Manchester officers for pressing him when they arrived at his home the evening of the shooting.
"There were officers there I had thought were my friends," he says. "I know how things work, but I also thought I would have some professional courtesy."
The RFT first reported on the shooting October 13
. At the time, Ruger's distraught owners, Jackie Dukart and Bob Holtz, explained that their first indication of trouble was when the injured dog came limping towards Dukart. They rushed him to the emergency veterinarian, where he later died.
It was only when they returned home, and saw a half-dozen cops gathered at the home of a neighbor, that they realized Armfield, a neighbor they didn't know personally, might be involved.
The police report, which Kolde recently obtained from the Manchester Police Department, details Armfield's initial protestations.
It was other residents who first called in a report of gunfire in the quiet residential neighborhood, followed by the sounds of a dog "yelping," according to the report.
When officer Adrian Roybal arrived, he saw Armfield washing down his driveway — and questioned whether he'd heard anything. Armfield said he hadn't heard gunshots; he believed a transformer may have blown up.
But as Roybal walked away, he noticed drops of blood on the driveway "that appeared fresh," as well as "fresh spattered blood that contained small strands of hair." They also found a trail of blood approaching the home of Ruger's owners — and no other blood anywhere in the neighborhood.
"I'm really getting tired of you accusing me of something," Armfield said, according to Roybal's report of the incident. He again denied shooting the dog, although he also allegedly stated, "I don't want any dog on my property!"
It took a third visit that day — with a lieutenant joining Roybal — for Armfield to admit to the shooting. He said he'd been washing his driveway when the dog suddenly appeared and began showing his teeth "in a vicious manner." The dog then went away just as suddenly, he said.
Armfield said he went inside his garage to get his pistol "just in case the dog returned." When the dog did — again, supposedly "barking and showing its teeth in the same vicious manner as before" — Armfield fired, according to the report. He said the gun was a commemorative pistol he'd gotten upon retiring from the force and at first resisted handing it over.
The officers took the gun, although they initially didn't take Armfield into custody due to his statements that he "feared for his safety." The department did, however, forward the report to county prosecutors for its review and possible action.
Kolde notes that the charge for killing an animal is only a misdemeanor. "The police report finally answers some of our questions about Ruger's tragic last moments. But, what I still can't understand is why Mr. Armfield wasn't arrested that night," he says. "Here is someone who just fired a gun in a residential neighborhood. Then, according to the police report, he repeatedly lied and kept denying he shot Ruger, he appeared visibly intoxicated to the investigating officer, and was seen by the officer with a hose while trying to clean up the crime scene.
"Yet for some reason the ranking commander decided not to take him in that night and instead gave him a day to collect his thoughts and give a written statement the next day. That simply makes no sense to me."
As for Armfield, he questions why Ruger was running loose. Himself the owner of a beagle, he says that day wasn't the first time he saw the dog out and about.
He notes that Dukart and Holtz have a sign in their yard calling for "Justice for Ruger."
"It's their fault," he says. "They neglected the animal."
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