Jon Geller, D.V.M.,, Dipl ABVP  
Ft. Collins, CO

Specialties: Canine and Feline Medicine

Interests: Urgent Care, Emergency care, critical care
Veterinary Emergency Hospital
970 484-8080
Ft. Collins, CO
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Make My Day: What Would You Do?

Sep 06, 2009 - 5 comments

gunshot wounds


veterinary emergency


Make My Day



Many emergency veterinarians welcome the challenge of gunshot wound cases, especially when we have a good outcome. It’s not very often, however, that a dog comes into our ER in critical condition from a gunshot wound, and survives, while the dog’s owner ends up dead from the very same thing. That is exactly what happened on the afternoon of November 2, 2003 in Greeley, Colorado.
Mojo was a 3 year old Miniature Pinscher, but did not deserve the “land shark” label that many of these MinPins end up with, as he normally was affectionate and friendly.  He did like to bark, however, and that tendency would end up leading to the demise of his master.
Just before Mojo arrived at our emergency room with his owners, Diane and Richard, he had been found collapsed in their yard, struggling to breath.  His gums were pale, and he had a wound on the left side of his chest. As he got oxygen to help him breathe, a quick XRay showed two bullets lodged in his chest. One bullet was lodged right next to his spine in his chest cavity, and the  other one was down near the bottom of his chest.
As soon as Richard, Mojo’s owner,  realized what had happened, he left the emergency clinic and said he was going home. He appeared calm at the time, but his wife noted a look of determination in his eyes she had not seen before. After Richard left, our team of emergency vets and techs continued to work on Mojo, administering IV fluids, pain meds and more oxygen.
When Richard arrived back at his home in the rural town of Ault, Colorado, he grabbed a stick of lumber and immediately went next door to confront his neighbor. He knew immediately where the bullet had come from, because his neighbor sometimes complained about Mojo’s barking. The neighbor also ran a jewelry business out of his home, and bragged about the collection of guns he kept for security.
Richard’s neighbor was waiting for him, apparently sitting in a chair in his living room with a shotgun laying across his lap. When Richard knocked on the door, he shouted at the neighbor to come outside.  Threats were yelled back and forth. When the neighbor refused to come outside, Richard broke the small view window in the top of the door.
A shotgun blast tore through the open window and hit Richard in the middle of his chest, and the wounds proved to be fatal. The shooter of Richard, and Mojo, was released from County Jail 9 days later under the Colorado “Make My Day” law, where deadly force can be used to protect one’s self, family and property if they are threatened. The issue of why he could shoot Mojo without penalty was never addressed.
              Meanwhile, efforts to save Mojo continued, and proved successful. He was taken off of oxygen, moved out of intensive care, and started on oral pain meds and antibiotics. Our success in reviving him provided little solace to Diane, Richard’s widow.
              Several months later, Diane moved with Mojo to another state to try and put their nightmare behind them. As far as I know, they are getting along OK.
              Further investigation revealed that the second bullet in Mojo’s chest was from a previous gunshot, and multiple pellets were also found in the side of the house where Mojo used to roam the yard and bark. He had been used as target practice by the neighbor, whose intolerance of Mojo’s barking proved to test the limits of the law and human civility.

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675347 tn?1365460645
by ginger899, Sep 06, 2009
If only Richard had not gone back there......I don't know if he would have got any satisfaction from reporting the other man's attempts to kill or maim his dog, but it might have been better to have tried, than to have gone down the revenge route first.
I feel so sorry for his widow, Diane. This is such a terrible tragedy for the family!

But I can empathize with him. He saw red. I often think the same, I would go for anyone who tried to hurt or kill my dog. Yet the other day we were (me and my dog) shot at from a passing car. It was only an air-rifle (or so I believe, by the sound of it) But it could have done some damage, if not to me, then to my dog. (I feel it was she they were aiming at. But they were bad shots, thank God)  It all happened so fast I could do nothing anyway, but after it happened, I realized to 'see red' could have been very dangerous.
But it's difficult to think straight when in Richard's position. Emotions would just boil up.

I think this is a lesson in trying if we can, to think straight before we do what we feel like doing. That's hard, I know. I am the same temperament.

Avatar universal
by Jaquta, Sep 07, 2009
Absolutely ridiculous that two adults can't discuss the issue in a mature way!!

In New Zealand a person is allowed to use 'reasonable force'.  Lethal force seems rather extreme in this situation.

It sounds like the neighbor had a good lawyer or that the murder was premeditated.

But then again, sleep deprived individuals can become unstable.

I expect this event destroyed many lives.  It sounds like the dog may have gained the most from this.

144586 tn?1284666164
by caregiver222, Sep 09, 2009
This is a touching story, however it is hearsay, and presents but one side of a tragic situation.

The use of deadly physical force against an intruder in Colorado is regulated by the provisions of Title 18 of the Colorado Criminal code section 18-1-704.5 "Use of Deady Physical Force Against an Intruder". This is a good, well-thought out statute. Similar laws have been adopted in many other states.

The statute text:

(1) The general assembly hereby recognizes that the Citizens of Colorado have a right to expect absolute safety within their homes.

(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 18-1-704, any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of force, including deady physical force, against another person, when that person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling., and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force NO MATTER HOW SLIGHT, against any occupant.

(3) Any occupant of a dwelling using physican force, including deadly physical force, in accordance with the provisions of this subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from criminal prosecution for the use of such force.

(4) Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly physical force, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from any civil liability for injuries or death resulting from the use of such physical force.

The situation was looked at by a district attorney and a grand jury, which reviewed all the facts of the case and refused to return an indictment.

675347 tn?1365460645
by ginger899, Sep 10, 2009
Well.....I wish the law were the same in Britain!
There have been people here PROSECUTED for using ANY force (considered assault) against an intruder in their home! It is quite surreal.
Would you believe the law can be such an ***?

Keep in mind that the neighbor that shot the dog and killed Richard was not convicted of either shooting. Shooting a neighbor's dog for excessive barking is not permitted under any law, anywhere, to the best of my knowledge. Even though the two bullets in Mojo's chest matched the rifle that was found in the neighbor's house, no charges were filed because police could not prove that whether it was the neighbor, or his live-in girlfriend, that actually shot the dog.

The shooter recently reappeared in the news after scamming multiple customers who brought their jewelry to his shop, only to find the shop closed and their jewelry gone.

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