09/21/08 — Mount Olive police shoot 'vicious' dog

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Mount Olive police shoot 'vicious' dog

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 21, 2008 7:27 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- It was just after 7 p.m. Thursday on West Main Street, a typically quiet stretch in Mount Olive.

Sharon Kulers heard her Dalmatian barking outside, so she made her way to the back yard.


Photo submitted

Durham, a 2-year-old 45-lb. Labrador retriever.

She saw a Mount Olive Police Department cruiser pull up to the house behind hers.

Then she noticed the shotgun in one of the officer's hands, aimed at her neighbor's 45-pound Labrador retriever.

"I said, 'Please don't shoot that dog. He won't hurt you,'" Mrs. Kulers said.

The officer looked at her, then back at the dog.

A shot rang out -- then, another.

"I said, 'Why did you have to do that? You didn't have to do that,'" Mrs. Kulers said. "He said, 'It showed its teeth.' He said, 'We have a right to do this.'"

Moments later, the same officer was dragging a plastic bag toward the road, the dog in it, witnesses said.

"That dog wouldn't hurt a flea," Mrs. Kulers said. "I know it is my word against theirs, but that dog was not being aggressive."

Colby Mangum arrived home at 7:45 and was greeted by a note on her front door.

"It said, 'Call the Mount Olive Police Department about your vicious dog,'" the 24-year-old Mount Olive College graduate said.

Immediately, she thought of her Rottweiler, Bella.

"Because of her breed and her size, I could understand if she got loose and scared someone," Ms. Mangum said.

But "never" would she have imagined that the note was in reference to her 2-year-old, "undersized" Labrador.

His name was Durham.

A few minutes after she found the note, her neighbor, Mrs. Kulers, came over.

"She was crying," Ms. Mangum said. "She was devastated."

Devastated by what she called a "hateful" and "unnecessary" action.

The neighbor who called the police was "really upset," too, Ms. Mangum said.

She was in her yard collecting sticks and pinecones when she mistook a playful lunge for one of aggression, she told her neighbor.

"She said (Durham getting shot) wasn't her intention," Ms. Mangum said. "That wasn't what she wanted. Not even close."

Shortly before an official from the police department showed up at Ms. Mangum's house on Main Street to discuss the incident, her neighbor showed her where Durham was.

She had no idea that her "son" was in that plastic bag leaning up against the curb.

"The officers decided he needed to be shot, so they did, twice, with a shotgun, and then put him in a trash bag and left him on the side of the road," Ms. Mangum said. "Some people view their pets as children, and I am one of those people."

When the officer showed up at her home, he showed no sympathy, she said.

"He was very cold, very rude," Ms. Mangum said. "He said, 'Well ma'am, that's procedure."

Nearly the same thing the shooter told Mrs. Kulers hours earlier.

Police Chief Ralph Schroeder said based on the report he has seen, his men were justified in using lethal force.

Calls to his office to get the name of the officer who fired the shots were not returned Friday. The notice left on Ms. Magnum's door was signed by "S. Parks."

They were called by a neighbor who said the dog was acting aggressive, the dog "showed its teeth" to officers, and even "lunged" at one of them, he said.

But at the scene, the department official sent to discuss the incident told Ms. Mangum that the dog was too far away to spray with mace, requiring two shotgun shells instead.

"From what I have seen in the reports, that is what it says. The dog was being aggressive," Schroeder said. "(Our officers) attempt to get the owner to control their animal. If we can't, you have to make the decision on what to do with it."

Town Manager Charles Brown said he had no comment other than he had heard about the shooting.

But he did say that that "any time an officer feels threatened, they have the right to respond to that."

Wayne County Animal Control director Justin Scally said he is not aware of any calls made to his office from Mount Olive police in reference to the incident -- Thursday evening or since.

"Typically, the 911 center will contact us," he said. "But to my knowledge, we didn't get any calls Thursday."

But Scally did say that he is not aware of any incidents in which a dog was put down by someone on his staff due to aggressive behavior.

Goldsboro police Chief Tim Bell "couldn't say" whether or not a similar scenario has played out in his jurisdiction.

Mrs. Kulers' voice was trembling when she talked about the incident Friday morning.

For her, as soon as she began pleading with officers, telling them that the dog was somebody's pet, was probably just scared, the situation should have been diffused.

Now, she fears for her own dog's safety -- and her own.

"My Dalmatian is an outside dog. He can get out," she said. "I don't want them shooting my Dalmatian if he gets out, just because he growls out of fear."

Ms. Mangum is still grieving but admits Durham wasn't really hers. Well, not exactly.

He was a member of her household, but his best friend was her boyfriend, former Mount Olive baseball center fielder Michael Kicia, a member of the 2008 World Series championship team.

"I can't even explain how upset he is," Ms. Mangum said.

So late Thursday evening, some of his teammates showed up at that house on Main Street.

They knew Kicia is currently in Canada, so they showed up to help honor his dog.

They went out to the college ballfield and picked a spot just beyond the center field wall - burying Durham not far from the place on the sidelines where he romped while his "daddy" played.

Ms. Mangum knows that emotional moment won't bring Durham back, that it might be a while before Schroeder's investigation results in "some kind of justice."

But she vows not to stop fighting until she is certain this never happens again in the town she has called home for nearly a decade.