Thursday, March 31, 2011

Important Not Guilty verdict in dog ‘warning shot’ case

Retired Cincinnati, Ohio police Lt. Harry Thomas was found “not guilty” by Carmel, Indiana City Court Judge Brian Poindexter following a three-hour bench trial

Thomas is the ex-cop who fired a single round into the ground on his own property, within inches of his own leg last October when a neighbor’s vicious dog put a jaw lock on his lower limb, after having menaced a neighbor who was walking her small dog across the street from Thomas’ house. His legal adventure began when a responding police officer wrote a report that resulted in a charge against him; a case that got attention on three different gun rights forums, here, here and here. We wrote about his dilemma the other day, noting that today was his trial date.

According to Thomas’ account of the trial, the prosecutor tried repeatedly to trip him into admitting that he didn’t have to fire the shot, but Thomas, who had appeared at numerous trials as a witness during his law enforcement career, offered an affirmative defense; that is, he testified as his own expert witness, explaining how firing as he did was the only safe thing to do.

The judge even acknowledged – against prosecution arguments – that under Indiana law and local ordinance, firing in self-defense does not necessarily require shooting someone or some animal fatally. There is no prohibition against “warning shots,” even though firing one is frowned upon by police agencies, a fact that Thomas confirmed under cross examination.

Thomas told this column that the verdict sets something of a precedent, that one needn’t kill when firing in self-defense. “We now have a precedent that you are not required to shoot-to-kill,” he said happily. During his police career, Thomas never had to kill anyone, and one suspects he sleeps well at night as a result.

Thomas had a couple of very good witnesses who testified about the dog that attacked Thomas, and the dog’s mate. The owner of those dogs has since moved farther into the country, apparently in part to keep his animals away from people.

The retired cop from the Flatlands may not realize it, but his actions may offer some guidance to citizens of the West, and no doubt there will be more discussion about this subject.


FL: 66-Year-Old Jewelry Store Owner abandons gun for fists: "Forty-five-year-old Joseph Anthony Borras entered Snow's Jewelers yesterday around 6 p.m. armed only with a crowbar and began smashing display cases. He attempted to take off with three Fendi watches, but a female employee confronted him. When Snow realized she was in danger, he took out a gun, but instead of shooting at the criminal, he began hitting him, eventually pinning him on the ground. "He could have hurt my employee or he could have hurt me, so there really wasn't a choice. We beat the crap out of him," Snow told NBC Miami. A Coral Gables Police officer told Local 10 that Snow is a hero. Borras was transported to the hospital before taken to jail. He faces charges of grand theft and armed robbery."

New Jersey continues to trash Second Amendment: "On March 16, the New Jersey Attorney General filed its final lower court response in the recently-filed lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s extreme and subjective handgun carry laws. As in its previous papers, the Attorney General again trashed the Second Amendment, arguing that the right to bear arms does not apply outside the home, and that New Jersey’s carry laws are constitutional and necessary to protect the public from those who legally carry firearms."

Brady Campaign invents new demon: "Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke has, perhaps inadvertently, revealed his intentions to push for an expanded ban on semiautomatic sport-utility rifles, and he invented a new demon in the process, proving he has no intention of finding common ground with gun owners, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said today."

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