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Crime & Courts

Anchorage man gets jail time for shooting neighbor's dog with pellet gun

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: December 13, 2016
  • Published December 12, 2016

Lenny, a wheaten terrier (right), owned by Denise Rosales, was shot by Rosales’ neighbor Jin Bong So. (Courtesy Denise Rosales)

Anchorage school teacher Denise Rosales said that for weeks she couldn't figure out what exactly had caused small, bullet-like, bloody wounds on her 2-year-old wheaten terrier named Lenny.

"It was over a period of time. It wasn't just once that our dog had an injury and I didn't know what from," Rosales told an Anchorage judge in court last week. "I even asked my husband, 'I wonder if he got shot?'"

Denise Rosales listens to municipal attorney Mike Shaffer describe how Rosales’ neighbor, Jin Bong So, shot her dog, during a change of plea hearing and sentencing Wednesday at the Boney Courthouse in Anchorage. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

It turned out, Lenny had gotten shot while out in their backyard in a neighborhood near Lake Otis Parkway and East Dowling Road. Rosales' neighbor Jin Bong So admitted in court to firing his pellet gun at Lenny, a dog that he said barked nonstop.

Speaking in Korean and through an interpreter Wednesday, So said he lived in a duplex, between two barking dogs.

"My common sense told me, if a dog barked, (the) owner would stop the dog and would feel sorry about this," So said. "But it did not happen. I could not bear it any longer."

Rosales disputed her neighbor's account of Lenny's barking habits. She said she had never had any confrontations with her neighbors in the past about the family's dog. On a day after the mysterious wounds had started to appear on Lenny's shoulders, Rosales said she was standing in her backyard looking at a bird on the fence when So came out and shot at it. She then realized that perhaps her neighbor had been firing at Lenny too, and called the police.

Lenny has lived through the injuries, Rosales said, but she told Judge Jennifer Henderson that the dog now cowers at any loud noise, "including bubble wrap, he's terrified of the pop sound." She showed Henderson a 34-second video of her blond-haired dog hobbling in her home after being shot in the shoulder.

So was charged in September with three misdemeanors: animal cruelty, criminal mischief and unlawful use or possession of firearms. (Under city law, an air gun falls under the definition of a firearm, while under state law it does not). So pleaded no contest on Wednesday to all three charges.

Jin Bong So  pleaded no contest to charges stemming from an incident earlier this year where he shot an air gun at a neighbor’s dog that was barking. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

His attorney, Chris Provost, told the judge that 69-year-old So, born and raised in Korea, moved to the United States, gained citizenship and had been a productive member of the community, working as a personal care provider and with only a charge of driving without a license on his record, from 32 years ago.

Provost said partially because of language and culture barriers, So did not know he could call animal control for help. He said So did not know that the pellet gun's projectiles would penetrate the dog's skin or that it was illegal to use a pellet gun within city limits.

"Had he known these community norms, it would have never come to this," Provost said. He said So was fired from his job because of the charges.

But city prosecutor Mike Shaffer asked the judge to send a strong message that So's actions were not acceptable and subject to consequences. Not only did So shoot a weapon within an Anchorage neighborhood but he did so to "deliberately shoot a defenseless dog," Shaffer said, both harming Rosales and endangering public safety.

"This wasn't a violent dog," he said. "This wasn't a vicious dog. This was a dog that the defendant felt was barking too much."

Judge Henderson ultimately found So guilty on all three charges. She sentenced him to 15 days in jail with more than 300 days suspended and three years probation. She fined him $1,500 and had him pay Lenny's vet bill of $250.80.

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