RAINS COUNTY –- The sheriff’s deputy who lost his job after shooting a dog during a burglary call this spring said the 2-year-old Blue Heeler’s necropsy shows it might have survived, had the owner not drowned it to end its suffering.
“The bullet went in, allegedly, right below the right ear, hit the cheek bone, and split into two pieces. One exited out right below the right eye, the other one went out the front of the mouth – missing the brain, missing any major blood vessels, missing any major arteries,” said Pete Schulte, Jerrod Dooley’s attorney.
On Thursday, Dooley, the former deputy, entered a not guilty plea in a waiver of arraignment. He maintains that he was acting in his official capacity when he pulled the trigger last April while responding to a burglary call at Cole Middleton’s home.
But the necropsy raises questions about whether the Rains County Sheriff’s Department acted hastily in firing Dooley and pursuing charges against him, Schulte said.
The necropsy said Middleton’s dog “was shot while retreating from the shooter.”
But faced with a badly bleeding dog, Middleton, 25, said he then had to do the unthinkable and drown Candy to end her pain and misery.
"I was faced with a decision - a choice - [that] I would never do under anything but those circumstances," Middleton explained while fighting back tears.
But Schulte suggested a jury should consider that.
“The question, then, comes down to, ‘Is my client the only one who should be charged with animal cruelty?' Because the owner of the dog, bless his heart, I know he thought perhaps the dog was going to die, but he drowned his dog,” Schulte said.
In the two months since the shooting, Middleton said he forgave Dooley, but still doubts his dog could have survived, even if it wasn't a fatal shot.
"When she would have died is really irrelevant -- when that time took place. But he shot with the intent to kill, and did so with her facing away from him," Middleton said.
The necropsy did not determine what caused Candy’s death.
Middleton has raised $27,000 hoping to pass a law next year requiring police to undergo training on how to deal with dogs. He and his wife also have a new, 8-week-old Blue Heeler named Dottie.
Dooley, a single father, is now working odd jobs to support his son.
A message left for the special prosecutor in the case was not immediately returned.
A trial date has not been scheduled.