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Jacklyn Shughart wants to understand why a Lebanon city police officer shot and killed her 15-month-old dog.
The Lebanon woman said she isn’t trying to “bash the cops” and realizes she might not know the full story yet, but she knows that her 1-year-old pup Gunner – who had escaped from her yard earlier Wednesday morning – was restrained and wagging his tail when an officer drew his sidearm and fatally shot the dog in the head.
“It doesn’t warrant shooting him,” Shughart told LebTown. “I don’t understand. I wasn’t there, I’m not trying to bash the cops who were there. I’m not mad at them for doing their job if they thought they were threatened.
“I’m just trying to understand.”
Lebanon city police Chief Todd Breiner did not respond Wednesday or Thursday to requests for comment on the incident.
Shughart said police told her they called Humane Society and state dog warden for assistance, but neither was available at the time. She also said she met an officer who said he was the one who shot her dog, although she didn’t share his name.
“He was crying with me. I think it hurt him as well,” she said. “He said he also owns dogs.”
She doesn’t “want to point fingers” at the police, Shughart said, but she wants to know why the responding officers did what they did.
“This officer was not a heartless man. I’m not going to say this guy’s at fault,” she told LebTown. “But is someone at fault? Absolutely. I don’t know what their protocols are, but my dog’s not here.
“They tased him and shot him. Nothing warranted what was done.”
‘A curious little puppy’
Shughart said she and her family adopted Gunner about a year ago from Davis Dog Farm, a nonprofit all-breed rescue group based in Grantville. He was about 14 weeks old at the time, she said – mostly German shepherd, she added, with some Labrador retriever and a bit of husky thrown in.
Gunner was “a curious little puppy,” she said. “Full of energy, and if you didn’t know him you would be scared but he was the biggest lovable goofball to have around.”
He was stubborn, she said, and he nudged people with his nose for attention. He shook people’s hands and liked to play with other dogs at the dog park.
“He loved to run,” Shughart said. “He’d swim in the creek and play in the water.”
She laughed. “He would only eat the soles out of my shoes,” she recalled. “All of my good sneakers have no soles.”
Because of his breed, he can look a little scary, she admitted, and “if you walked by my fence he would bark. He has scared people.”
“As much as I’m going to miss him … he was also my protector. He made me feel safe, he made me comfortable.”
A representative of Davis Dog Farm, where Gunner was adopted, also posted Wednesday about the incident on Facebook.
“This afternoon one of the Davis Dog Farm Dogs alumni was shot in cold blood in Lebanon county. The dog has no history of aggression and the incident was witnessed and videoed. If you have additional information on this incident we would like to receive it. We intend to take any action necessary to prevent this in the future,” the message said in part. “If a dog is biting a catcher pole in fear and has pooped itself in fear you do not need to shoot them.”
An hour later, the rescue group amended the message, noting: “We want to be clear that our anger is not directed at our local police departments but rather this specific officer who has shown how little he values dogs lives. We work closely with our local police departments and appreciate them emensely [sic]. We will pursue this to the fullest extent because Gunner’s life mattered and he never deserved any of this.”
‘Traumatized and heartbroken’
The story began Wednesday morning, when someone knocked on Shughart’s door and told her daughters that their dogs were running loose. Someone, Shughart said later, apparently opened their gate to let the dogs out.
As her daughters started to search for the dogs, Shughart posted photos of Gunner online and asked for help finding him.
“His name is Gunner. He is friendly but does act tough,” she said in the message. “Go at him calmly, if you run at him he will think it’s a game.”
Gunner, meanwhile, had apparently wandered into the backyard of Lebanon resident Kimberlee Pichardo, who said on Facebook that she called the police when she spied the stray dog. Pichardo, who took video of the incident from inside her home, was distraught over his death.
“If you live in Lebanon, please I repeat PLEASEEEE DONT CALL the Lebanon police department on stray animals!” she wrote in a Wednesday afternoon post. “I called to help me with this lost pup. And instead of waiting for the humane society they tazed him and than shot him called cold blooded no remorse ! Never will i ever call the police for help ! I’m literally traumatized and heartbroken.”
In a later comment, Pichardo said police “lied and told her that he was being aggressive towards my children and them and that was never the case my kids were never outside. … like if he was attacking and lunging at them I would understand but he was soo scared!!! He was literally hiding and trying to get away from them no reason to shoot … he was not mean or aggressive at all just scared.”
Pichardo did not respond to a request for comment. However, she noted on Facebook that she shared the video with the dog’s owner.
Shughart told LebTown that she cannot bring herself to watch the video of Gunner’s death. However, she said, other people who watched it told her Gunner was lying on the ground with his head in the noose of a long animal control capture pole, which was held by one of three police officers on the scene. Gunner was wagging his tail in the video right up to the moment an officer shot him. Death appeared to be instantaneous.
“He’s trained, so if you tell him down, he gets down and his tail wags because he thinks he’s getting a treat,” Shughart said. “They said he was trying to bite the pole. I’d bite it, too.”
She noted that management at Davis Dog Farm has asked for footage from the officer’s body cam so they can get a better idea of what happened.
‘Dog was NOT dangerous’
Emily Speck, who identified herself on Facebook as the foster coordinator for Davis Dog Farm, wrote Thursday morning that people claiming Gunner was being aggressive did not watch the video.
“I have, unfortunately, seen the full video and this was not the case,” she said. “Yes the dog was scared but was by no means lunging at anyone. This is not the first situation this officer has been involved in and unless change occurs, it won’t be the last.”
Speck also shared a narrative of the event on Facebook.
“Yesterday was a tough day in rescue,” she wrote Thursday morning. “One of our Davis Dog Farm alumni, Gunner, was killed. Careless kids opened the gate at his home while walking by and let him loose. He was terrified and had no clue how to get home. He was later found in a backyard where police were called and a series of unfortunate events occurred which resulted in Gunner being shot.
“Gunner was a beloved family member who did not deserve to have his life end this way. Now is the time for change to happen; now is the time for conversations to be had. Education is so incredibly important in these situations.
“Education for children – why it is so beyond necessary to respect other people’s property and belongings. I am sure they did not intend for this to happen however because of their careless joke, a life was ended. Have those conversations with your kids, teach them respect of living creatures of all kinds.
“Education for the police department – This is a time where they can get the training they need. Training in animal behavior, training on what other precautions can be done to calm the dog down or restrain them safely. Always making sure there is someone who is more educated available, whether it is the humane society, a K9 officer, animal control. The excuse of ‘everyone was off’ is unacceptable. What if your child was in a bad situation and all of the hospital staff were ‘off’.
“Reminder to all pet owners: Love your dog like each day could be their last because you never know what tomorrow holds. This was an incredibly unfortunate situation that no one could see coming. It is the most imaginable heartbreak one could endure. Throw the ball, swim in the creek, and go for that walk.”
Gracie Swisher, who also identified herself as a Davis Dog Farm employee, added: “We will be doing everything to support the owner. This dog was NOT dangerous.”
‘Why did you do this?’
“I don’t want to point fingers, but I want to know why. Why did you do this?” Shughart asked. “He was wagging his tail at the end. He was not aggressive. If you had him subdued, why did you shoot him in the head?”
Police told her that their were children in the yard who were in danger from the dog, Shughart said. Pichardo said the only children present were in the house with her.
“I’m getting so many conflicting stories,” Shughart said. “I want the cop’s body cam.”
“If he lunged at one of the cops, I’d say the shooting was justified 100%,” she added. “I am not trying to bash the police. I know they have a job to do. But do I think this was handled the correct way? No.”
Gunner was one of two dogs in Shughart’s family. The other, Riker, was also a Davis Dog Farm rescue.
Riker, Shughart said, “is sweet and lovable. He’ll lick your face off.” Like Gunner, he’s a German shepherd mix.
“We were just going to foster him, but he and Gunner took to each other, I couldn’t get rid of him,” she said. “He was Gunner’s pal.”
On Facebook, Shughart has been overwhelmed with messages of support for her loss, as well as anger and frustration toward the police handling of the incident.
One friend wrote to Shughart on Wednesday and asked if she needed anything.
“I need my dog back,” she replied.
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