Charge dropped against man who shot pit bull
A prosecutor has dropped a charge against a man who shot a pit bull he claimed was threatening him last month at a shooting range near Basalt.
According to Molly Chilson, a deputy district attorney in Eagle County, there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue a charge against Dennis Bader, a Glenwood Springs man who was accused of shooting the dog.
“I have an ethical obligation as a prosecutor to only go forward on cases that we feel are prosecutable,” Chilson said Tuesday.
The incident occurred Jan. 30 at the Christine Shooting Range on Colorado Division of Wildlife property, in unincorporated Eagle County just outside the Basalt town limits.
The dog’s owner, Jestus “Brock” Wade, of Glenwood Springs, said he disagreed with the DA’s decision and will press for reconsideration.
“I feel that they didn’t look over all the evidence that was before them,” said Wade. “I’m definitely considering any option to get justice.”
Wade’s brother, Heath Wade, who was also at the shooting range that day, said he “totally freaked” when he learned the DA dropped charges against the shooter.
“How much evidence do you need?” he asked. Deputy found inconsistencies Bader was cited for cruelty to an animal after an investigation by Eagle County Deputy Sheriff Scott Hunter. The deputy determined that Bader shot Raider, a 1-year-old male pit bull, from about 30 yards away.
Bader reported that the dog jumped over a berm and began running toward him. He fired his rifle, he told investigators, because the dog had threatened him two times earlier that day and he feared for his life.
Deputy Hunter told The Aspen Times earlier this month that there were inconsistencies in Bader’s story. The dog was killed by a shot to his side and he ended up against a berm. It didn’t appear he was running toward Bader, according to Hunter.
Chilson said Bader explained that he had to shoot while the dog was that far away because of the way his rifle’s scope was set up. He didn’t want to risk shooting at a closer range in case the dog charged.
The dog had allegedly come within two feet of Bader on two earlier encounters. It allegedly growled at him and bared its teeth.
“In his own mind he was in harm’s way,” the prosecutor said.
Since he felt his life was in danger, it would have been difficult to prove criminal intent, she said.
Bader couldn’t be reached for comment at his house Tuesday.
Chilson said the decision was difficult, especially since she is a dog owner.
“I think Mr. Wade was understandably upset because his dog was shot,” said Chilson. “I would have been angry and upset just as he was.” Angry, upset … and ticketed Perhaps adding insult to injury, Wade was cited for allowing a dog to run at large. He said he paid that fine rather than contest it.
But Wade’s big concern was the lack of prosecution against Bader. He said he thinks the charge could have been proven based on Bader’s actions.
He noted that Bader had a pistol when Raider allegedly threatened him the first two times. If Bader felt threatened, he asked, why didn’t he shoot then?
After his first two encounters with the pit bull, Bader allegedly walked about 150 feet back to his vehicle, exchanged the pistol for a rifle and returned to the range.
“If they made it to their vehicle, most people would not get back out,” said Wade. A person who truly felt threatened would have contacted authorities, tried to find the owner or simply left, he claimed. He doubted a person would have exited the vehicle again.
Wade said he believes Bader’s intent was to get the bigger gun so he could take a shot at the dog. “I think it’s totally premeditated,” he said.
Wade said he may hire an attorney to pursue getting the case reconsidered.
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Max Weintraub has been senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum since January 2019.