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A Facebook group of almost 16,000 members is calling for Justice For Bear-Bear. Today, Keith Elgin Shepherd was found guilty of unlawfully discharging a weapon and animal cruelty but avoided any jail time or significant fines. Judge Thomas Pryal found him guilty on both counts–animal cruelty and unlawful discharge of a weapon. Shepherd was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation, 80 hours of community service, and a total of $1500 in fines ($500 for the animal cruelty and $1000 on the gun charge). The $1000 is suspended provided he completes his probation without incident. Before sentencing, Shepherd was given the option to accept the sentence and receive a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) which prevents him from any appeal and allows the judgment to be erased from his record once the sentence is complete. The bottom line is a guilty verdict, a year probation, 2 weeks of community service and $500 plus costs.
Shepherd’s attorney, David Putzi commented after the verdict, “Of course we are disappointed but not surprised and understand the Judge’s logic. Keith is optimistic that he can move forward and put this behind him.”
Eye On Annapolis was live tweeting the proceedings and you can view our comments on our Twitter Feed.
On August 2, 2010, Bear-Bear, a Siberian Husky, was off his leash playing in a designated dog park in the Quail Run community in Severn, MD. Off duty civilian Army police officer, Keith Elgin Shepherd came to the park with his German Shepherd and wife. Shepherd did not remove the leash from his dog and when the dogs began to tussle, he felt threatened and asked Bear-Bear’s handler to call off the dog. When the handler did not react as quickly as Shepherd expected, he pulled a handgun from his waist and shot the Siberian Husky. The dog died in a veterinary hospital shortly after the incident.
Shepherd immediately called Anne Arundel County Police and reported the incident. The initial police investigation was immediately closed by the responding officers; but was re-opened two days later when an outcry of public support reached the desk of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold. Leopold, an animal lover himself, ordered his appointed Chief of Police, Col. James Teare, to commence a full and thorough investigation into the shooting.
The re-opened investigation led to the police forwarding the file to the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney, Frank Wethersbee to decide if charges and prosecution were warranted. After a two week investigation, Wethersbee’s office decided that the case did indeed merit charging Shepherd. Shepherd was charged with unlawfully discharging a weapon in public and animal cruelty. He was served with the criminal citation on August 28, 2010. The maximum penalty for both counts is 9 months in jail and $10,000 in fines.
Subsequent to the shooting, the pressure has been kept up by animal rights activists both online and with rallys. The Justice for Bear-Bear facebook group has nearly 16,000 members. The story has gained international attention with the ASPCA and many other animal advocacy groups. Shepherd has since moved from his rented home in Severn and is also a defendant in another lawsuit presumably from his former landlord who is seeking $8887.50 in a contract dispute scheduled for trial on January 18, 2011.