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Dog shot, killed at public park by Clay County Sheriff’s Deputy

‘You did not have to shoot him,’ dog rescuer says of the officer. ‘He shot first and asked questions later’

A 1-year-old puppy, a public park and a police officer became a lethal mix when a veteran officer shot and killed the boxer hound mix “Parker” at Ronnie Van Zant Park in Clay County Saturday.

The dog was being walked by a dog sitter, off leash, when the incident occurred. According to a police report, Clay County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Cowan believed Parker was a pit bull. He said the dog was 300 feet away, and off leash when it began “charging at him at a full run.” 

“In fear for his safety and his dog” – a miniature schnauzer – the report says he drew his Glock and fired. Cowan was off duty at the time. The Glock is his personal handgun, not his service weapon.

The woman who was dog sitting agreed to speak about the incident, but asked that her name not be used. She said she was horrified and devastated by what happened and blames herself for not knowing about Clay County’s leash laws

But she insists Parker was never threatening. “He was playing,” she said. “He wasn’t growling, he wasn’t showing his teeth. When he ran toward the man and his dog, she said, “I called his name – Parker! – and then the guy looked up at me, and took out his gun, and shot Parker.”

She ran to the dog in disbelief. “I started petting him and telling him it’s going to be OK,” she said. “And then he died.”  

She said the Clay County Deputy who responded to the shooting concluded it was a case of self-defense.

The dog’s owner, Miranda Abbas, was traveling when she got her dog sitter’s text message.  

“To be on the other side of the world and get that news was hard,” she said. “It is so not in the realm of something you would think would happen.”

She describes Parker as “high energy” but docile. “He never ever had an ounce of aggression in him.”

Kelly Krehbiel agrees. The owner and founder of Furs Sisters pet rescue, she fostered Parker when he was a puppy. Also Abbas’ neighbor, she watched Parker grow up. “I know the dog and I know how friendly he is,” she said. “I was just in shock. I literally could not believe what I was hearing.”

Krehbiel said there are many ways someone can react, short of lethal force, if they feel threatened by a dog. She said the fact that it was a police officer doing the shooting is especially concerning.  

“You should be trained better to handle situations like that,” she said. “He needs to be held accountable for his actions.”

Krehbiel wants the incident to force the Sheriff’s office to step up training, but the Sheriff’s Office doesn't seem to be moving in that direction. The officer will not face discipline, a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson confirms, adding, “This is a non-offense, case closed.”

As for Abbas, who just returned to town two nights ago, she’s struggling to process what happened. Last night, she picked up Parker’s ashes in a tiny box, along with a memorial impression of his paw print.

“Seeing the paw print that they give you, to see how tiny and little his paw print is and just to think somebody thought that … sorry,” she pauses, choked up. “It’s just been a lot to process.”

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