Did Bear-Bear Die In Vain?

| August 23, 2010 | 12 Comments
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Several weeks ago, a Siberian husky was gunned down in a dog park by an off-duty police officer with his personal weapon. The community was rightfully outraged and has called for justice on behalf of a dog who could never (and certainly can no longer) speak for itself.  Initially, the Anne Arundel County Police Department closed this case without much fanfare.
Anne Arundel County Executive, John R. Leopold stepped to the plate and demanded that his appointee, County Police Chief James Teare re-open the case and investigate it fully. The case was re-opened and turned over to State’s Attorney Franks Weathersbee. The decision came forth that indeed, the officer, Keith Elgin Shepherd, was to be charged.
Despite the calls for extreme punishment including torture, waterboarding, and the death penalty, the decision was made to charge him with two misdemeanors which could possibly net him 9 months in jail and a $2000 fine.  Yet the outrage continues.
For a moment, let’s take a clear headed look at this. Protesters got the attention of the State’s Attorney who presumably did the investigation (and once the case is done, the records are public, so to NOT do an investigation is political suicide). Most of the media and protesters are not attorneys, judges, cops, or prosecutors. We need to let the process take its course. Most likely, charging him with a felony (possible) would have had less chance of sticking, and hence, a misdemeanor charge was filed.

Are the calls for additional charges and an orchestrated email campaign to the Governor helping or harming the cause?  We saw some of the emails sent to the State’s Attorney and some of them were embarrassing and profane. Is this the type of behavior a fun loving 3 year old Siberian Husky named Bear-Bear would want for his legacy?

When this goes to trial (still no date scheduled) anything can happen. When you fight a traffic ticket, you can be guilty or not. Let the process play out. For the most part, the courts in the US have done an admirable job of keeping the peace for the past 234 years.  Let’s hope he is found guilty and the State’s Attorney does not allow for a plea bargain. Let Keith Shepherd take his legal lumps from the courts.

But, outside of the court of law, know that Keith Elgin Shepherd is being punished–probably more severely than any court.  We are not on his side. What he did was reprehensible. But consider that in his neighborhood, he is likely known as “the cop who killed the dog” and parents are encouraging children to steer clear of this “bad man.”  His future employment, in the only career he has known is in serious jeopardy. If he is able to be employed as a cop, his fellow officers (if they are aware) will not let him forget his actions. Realistically, due to the scope of this story (worldwide),  he will likely be forced to move away and attempt to re-build his life. One has to wonder what his wife and family think? Is he the new black sheep of the family?  And then on top of all this, the Rettaliata’s have a good civil case (especially with a guilty criminal verdict) which will further punish him financially.  When is enough enough?

Protesters are screaming for justice. It is working. Anne Arundel County Executive, John R. Leopold (a former Delegate who is poised to skate into a second term as County Executive) is already calling for more harsh laws in the legislature. It is a start. Again, we can’t change what happened to Bear-Bear, but aren’t the changes in the laws something that Bear-Bear would have wanted? If laws can be changed in his name, perhaps his death will not have been in vain.

Yes, the community is outraged. Yes, it was a horrible event. But, things are on the right track and indeed, there will be justice for Bear-Bear if we let the process take over.

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Category: NEWS, OPINION

About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news–and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.

John’s background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.