For the second time in just as many weeks, a Starke County man is blaming police for murdering his best friend.
On Sept. 15, officer Kyle Hinds with the Hamlet Police Department shot a boxer named Rosco six times, killing the ten-month-old puppy. The shooting happened as Hinds walked door-to-door along the 200-block of Railroad St., looking for a woman with a search warrant. Following an internal investigation, Town Marshall Frank Lonigro III cleared Hinds of any wrongdoing.
Just as a firestorm of backlash cooled across town, a second canine shooting occurred Monday around 11 a.m., this time at the hands of the Starke County Sheriff’s Department.
In a media statement released to NewsCenter 16, Sheriff Oscar Cowen said a deputy drove to the 2600–block of S. 700 E. to serve a resident with civil court papers. The deputy drove-up a 1/4 mile-long gravel driveway before putting his squad car in park. Cowen said the deputy then exited his vehicle when he observed a “Beware of Dog” sign and a dog house with a rope attached to it.
I was sitting inside with my dog when all of a sudden I heard a loud, ‘hey,’ and my dog bolted out the door,” owner Jay Dollahan said about his one-year-old English Pitbull Boz.
Once on the porch, Boz sprinted toward the deputy who immediately reached for his handgun, hopped onto the hood of a car and fired two shots. Boz stopped dead in his tracks with at least one bullet wound to his head, let out a brief moan and collapsed in the front yard.
"All the officer kept saying after he killed him was, 'Dispatch I need somebody out here, a vicious Pitbull just tried to attack me.' He spun it around and made it look like the dog was horrible and he wasn't, Boz was a good dog,” Dollahan added with tears filling in his eyes.
It’s an emotional experience suddenly losing an animal held so close. Dollahan said every single day he played with Boz, ate with Boz, even slept with Boz; a dog that brought a sense of warmth to his rural Starke County refuge.
"He was just the smartest dog ever and gentle too. Children would get on him and ride him and he never-ever was aggressive, ever,” Dollahan recalled.
Following the shooting, the deputy, who has yet to be identified, radioed for a supervisor. Both Sheriff Cowen and Chief Deputy Bill Dulin responded. Following what Dollahan is calling a “five minute internal investigation,” Cowen and Dulin deemed the shooting “justified” because the officer was, “in fear for his safety.”
"It’s sad, but scary because they [police] can just come onto your property whether you have a “Beware of Dog” sign or not and be justified for killing your animal. Their excuse; the way the dog looked and the way it ran out just to sniff around. It’s just sad; he didn't deserve this at all. This was his property, his place,” Dollahan concluded.
Since Jan. 2011, the St. Joseph County Police Department has handled 20 fatal animal shootings; only two of which involved dogs. During that same time, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department had five unruly dog calls, two of which ended in the deaths of an animal. Starke County, which maintains a significantly smaller human and animal population, has now matched that figure in less than two weeks. The question now becomes: character or coincidence?