Kane prosecutor: No charges for shooting dog because neighbor was justified in his fear of attack
The husband of Wayne Village President Eileen Phipps won't face criminal charges in the shooting death of a neighbor's dog.
Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser said Hal Phipps was justified when he shot Ludwig, a Dogo Argentino dog, last month. Mosser announced her decision during a Wednesday news conference.
"Mr. Phipps feared for his safety and his life and was legally justified in shooting Ludwig," Mosser said.
Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said an enhanced version of a surveillance video supplied by Ludwig's owner "clearly shows" Ludwig and another dog ran onto Phipps' property. That was corroborated by an independent witness, Mosser said.
On Aug. 10, Hal Phipps shot a handgun at Ludwig and another dog, officials said. Ludwig was struck and died. Initially, it was reported he fired the gun several times, but on Wednesday, Hain said Phipps fired once.
Both dogs belonged to a next-door neighbor, Joe Petit.
After the shooting, Hal Phipps told Kane County deputies that the dogs were aggressively blocking a path from his boat launch area on the Fox River to his home.
Petit disputes that. He said a friend had taken Ludwig and Philotimo, the other dog, to play in the river, and the dogs were not on the Phippses' property.
The shooting was investigated by the Kane County sheriff's office. Deputies were the first to arrive at the scene because they were close by in the unincorporated Valley View neighborhood, according to Hain. Once Wayne police learned it involved the Phippses, the chief asked the sheriff to take over to avoid a conflict, Hain said last month.
Hain said that when deputies first interviewed the woman who was with the dogs, she was intoxicated. In subsequent interviews, she changed her account four times, he said.
He said Phipps used a snub-nosed five-shot .38-caliber revolver and fired just one shot. The weapon is not known for being accurate at long distances, Hain said.
Hain said Phipps started carrying the gun while working in his yard because the dogs had attacked him in his yard in June. One of the dogs bit Phipps during the June attack, according to two village ordinance violation tickets that Wayne police issued to Petit.
Mosser said what happened in August didn't meet legal requirements for charging Phipps with reckless conduct, reckless discharge of a firearm or animal cruelty. The woman who was with the dogs was at least 30 to 40 feet away from the shooting, and the trajectory of the shot was toward the dog and away from the woman, according to Mosser.
The surveillance video did not capture the shooting. The Elgin Police Department enlarged the video for the sheriff's office.
An independent witness heard the dogs barking in a loud, "alerting" manner, followed by a single gunshot, Mosser said. That person then saw both dogs running off Phipps' property and then Ludwig floating northward in the river. The woman pulled the dog from the river.
Mosser said she also reviewed the Wayne police report from the June attack, which noted a puncture wound on Phipps' leg that appeared to be a dog bite.
"I can only decide a case based on the facts and the law that are before me, and I have to do so in a fair and ethical way," Mosser said.
Petit could not be immediately reached for comment.
The dog's death has angered many people far outside Wayne. "Justice for Ludwig" yard signs have been spotted throughout the suburbs, as far south as Plainfield. There is a Facebook page devoted to the issue. Some residents have asked Phipps to resign.
On Wednesday, some criticized Mosser's decision and urged people to call Mosser to complain. Several said Mosser's decision was politically motivated.
"I know neither Mr. Phipps nor his wife," Mosser said at the news conference. "This decision that was made today has nothing to do with politics."
In an August interview, Eileen Phipps said she was dismayed at how people were acting on social media, including posting pictures of her young granddaughter, the daughter of Hal Phipps Jr. She said her husband cooperated fully with the sheriff's investigation.
"These dogs run loose constantly, day and night, night and day," Eileen Phipps said at that time.
The Phippses could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The American Kennel Club classifies the Dogo Argentino breed as working dogs, saying they typically weigh 88 to 100 pounds and describing them as large, powerful, athletic dogs originally bred for finding, chasing and hunting large game animals.