Doggonit, the walk went wrong

By Katherine Wartell

By many accounts, Gonzo, a French Mastiff, is just a goofy dog. Neighbors say he’s friendly, cheerful and, above all, harmless. Since Tuesday, however, Gonzo has been recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg.

It was inflicted by a man, not identified by police, who Gonzo approached while the man was walking his own dogs near Sixth and Fremont streets, the neighborhood where Gonzo’s owner, Michael Oakley lives.

Though Gonzo was only wounded, the shooting has concerned both Oakley and his neighbors, who say it took place at a busy time of day (5 p.m.) in an active neighborhood, not far from Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.

Oakley said he was in his apartment, washing dishes, when Gonzo escaped through the screen door, which Oakley said doesn’t latch.

According to police reports, once outside the apartment, Gonzo ran across the street to approach a man walking his own two dogs. Lt. Josh Kyle said the man fell backward off the curb after Gonzo approached him and subsequently shot Gonzo in his front leg.

Officers were notified of the shooting by a neighbor who witnessed the event. The man was transported to Mercy Regional Health Center for back pain. A report for the unlawful discharge of a firearm within city limits was filed, but no arrests have been made, and Oakley was cited for allowing Gonzo to run at large, a violation of city ordinance.

In Manhattan, dogs are considered to be running at large when they are unleashed while not on their owner’s premises or if the dog’s chain is loose enough that they can run onto public and private property not belonging to their owner. According to city code, a dog may only be unleashed within a city-designated dog park or on their owner’s premises.

Kyle said that in the past six months, the RCPD has received 138 calls regarding animals at large. He said they have also received 23 reports that were categorized as dangerous or vicious dogs in the same time span, though Gonzo’s case was not designated as such.

In all, Kyle said the department received 362 animal-related calls in the last six months, saying it is definitely an issue for them.

John Davis, Oakley’s neighbor, said he witnessed the incident with Gonzo while he was outside talking to another neighbor.

Davis said Gonzo approached the man’s dogs in a non-aggressive manner and that’s when he saw the man pull out a handgun. “I started screaming, ‘No, no, no. Don’t shoot the dog,’” he said.

Davis said the man tripped and fell backward, shooting Gonzo between his own legs. According to Davis, the man then stood back up and holstered his weapon before eventually lying down.

Oakley said this was not his first encounter with the man, who he said had threatened Gonzo in October. In that incident, Oakley said he was in his yard with Gonzo when the man walked by with his own dogs and Gonzo approached them.

Oakley said the man became upset and pulled his gun on Gonzo, saying, “Get that dog out of here.” Oakley said he called the police that time as well. Kyle said that the man had not been cited for violations related to his carrying of weapons.

That Tuesday evening, Oakley said he heard Davis yell that Gonzo had been shot, but did not see what happened until the dog ran back through the door with blood dripping from his paw.

He took Gonzo to the veterinary hospital at Kansas State University, where he said doctors performed x-rays and cleaned out his wound. The bullet had gone in and out. “He’s a tough, little dog. It was just sad on the ride over,” he said.

Neighbor Deb Lowrie said she was devastated when she heard he had been shot and concerned that a man had been carrying a loaded gun and would fire it in broad daylight on their street. “That’s just pretty scary to me,” she said.

A second neighbor, Zach Titterton, said Gonzo has never shown aggression to his own dogs, a Great Dane and a Boxer, or his cat. Oakley often takes Gonzo to the dog park, and Titterton said that Gonzo probably got used to socializing with other dogs and dog owners and just wanted to say hello when he was shot.

Davis said he was only about ten feet away from the shooting and said he’s concerned that people will brush over the incident too quickly. “There were people outside and that bullet could have hit anyone,” he said. “People are getting too blasé.”

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