WILLIAM J. FITZPATRICK
County of Onondaga County Criminal Courthouse, 4th Floor
505 South State Street
Syracuse, New York 13202
For Release: August 18, 2014
On May 31, 2014, defendant Susan Leach, a 70 year old mother and grandmother who has never been arrested, fired a single shot from her lawfully possessed .22 caliber rifle and struck and killed her neighbor’s mixed breed pit bull, Tucker. The weapon was discharged by Ms. Leach as she was standing on her back deck and the shooting was witnessed by her 20 year old granddaughter and her 15 year old grandson. The physical evidence indicates the weapon was fired in a downward angle such that if Ms. Leach had missed striking the dog, the projectile most likely would have landed harmlessly in her backyard. By way of explanation to responding members of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), Ms. Leach indicated her reason for shooting the dog was that it was chasing her cat in a highly aggressive manner and in her judgment was about to cause an imminent threat to the life or safety of said cat. Susan Leach was not charged by OCSO but was charged by an officer with the NYS DEC with Discharging a Firearm within 500 feet of an Occupied Dwelling.
Since this charge was filed, The District Attorney’s Office has received numerous e-mails demanding that Ms. Leach be arrested for a more serious animal cruelty charge. This Office has also received numerous letters in support of Ms. Leach. The District Attorney’s Office independent review of this matter reveals the following:
1) The dog in question, Tucker, has an unfortunate history of acting aggressively towards numerous neighbors. These reports have been confirmed by a review of Elbridge Court records as well as affidavits provided by said neighbors. Tucker has also been spotted on numerous occasions running through the neighborhood unleashed.
2) The statute in question is designed to deter or punish offenders who foolishly endanger public safety by discharging a firearm for recreational, hunting or target shooting purposes in proximity to occupied dwellings. The statute does not apply to someone acting with a reasonable belief that such discharge of a weapon is necessary to protect the life of some person or some domesticated animal.
For Release: August 18, 2014
3) The only eye witnesses to the event, albeit interested family members, tell a coherent story that is entirely consistent with Ms. Leach’s version of events.
4) Exactly what Tucker the dog would have done had he caught up to the cat before being shot is pure speculation. Arguments that Ms. Leach should have done this or could have done that are pure conjecture and are of no assistance in deciding how to handle this case. What is clear is that Ms. Leach’s assertion that she feared imminent bodily injury or death to her cat was an eminently reasonable conclusion based on all the evidence.
5) For the reasons stated above, the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office declines to prosecute Ms. Leach and will move to dismiss this charge in the interest of justice.
One final note. This Office is acutely aware of the emotional response that animal cases generate. This Office has a long and distinguished track record in aggressively pursuing legitimate cases of animal cruelty. With that said, and having been made aware of a number of threats directed at Susan Leach, please be advised that any effort to harass, intimidate or in any way harm this woman or members of her family will be dealt with as harshly as the law permits.