Ex-sheriff says animal bit beagle twice; German shepherd owner witnesses incident

A former Bartholomew County sheriff and Columbus city councilman described himself as upset and hurting after being forced to shoot and kill a dog that was attacking his pet.

Kenny Whipker was walking his pet beagle, Tina, on a leash at 2:15 p.m. Monday in a residential area near Ninth and Lafayette streets when Whipker said he heard growling and saw a German shepherd mix go after the beagle.

“I tried to get in between them, but the dog latched onto my dog and bit her, and then bit her again,” said Whipker, who served as county sheriff from 1999 to 2006 and as a city councilman from 2013 to 2015. “We were trying to get away, but I felt like I had no other option but to shoot the dog.”

Whipker is a certified public safety officer in Indiana and works for the Indiana Department of Correction, carrying a 9mm handgun as part of his work, he said.

Police were called to the area by a witness to the incident who reported shots fired, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman. Officers came upon Whipker and people from the neighborhood near where the dog was shot, he said.

Investigators still were interviewing witnesses Tuesday before filing a completed report, but Harris confirmed basic facts regarding the incident.

Whipker said that he had just returned to his Franklin Street home after being at work Monday and immediately headed out to walk Tina, still carrying his police identification and the gun, which are part of his uniform for work.

The German shepherd’s owner told police that the dog had escaped through the home’s front door, Harris said. Police said witnesses told them the dog ran across the street toward Whipker and Tina, and began biting the beagle.

The owner of the dog, Betty Broughton, who lives on Lafayette Avenue, gave a different account of the shooting, however.

The shepherd mix named Axel was a 1-year-old that had been adopted two months ago from the Bartholomew County Humane Society, she said.

“He was a very smart dog and he wasn’t violent,” Broughton said. “He was not an aggressive dog.”

Axel had learned how to shift the door handle on his home’s front door and had gotten out, she said.

“We never let him out without a leash,” Broughton said. “He usually stays in the back yard.”

However, Axel had gotten out the front door and had wandered over to the nearby First Presbyterian Church parking lot as Broughton tried to coax him home, the owner said. The dog continued to roam as Broughton was yelling for him and eventually went back to Lafayette Street where he saw Whipker and the beagle on the corner at Ninth Street, she said.

“Axel saw them and starts running and he was growling — both dogs were growling — but he did not touch that dog,” Broughton said, challenging the allegation that Axel bit Whipker’s beagle.

Broughton said she went down from her porch to the corner and grabbed Axel by his breast harness and collar, and he licked her face, she said.

She said Whipker said to her that he was a cop, showing her a badge on his belt, and told her he was going to shoot her dog, she said.

Broughton said she was so distraught Monday that she was unable to give a statement to police until Tuesday.

Whipker said he had never seen the German shepherd mix before.

“I am just very upset about this,” Whipker said in the aftermath of the shooting. “I just hated to do that. I’m the kind of guy when I see a dog behind a fence when I’m walking by, I stop and talk to it.”

The only other time Whipker has had to use his service weapon against an animal has been to put down a deer that had been hit by a vehicle, he said.

A Columbus city ordinance prohibits people other than public safety officers or soldiers from firing a gun within the city limits, but the ordinance does allow a gun owner to use it for self defense, Harris said.

The ordinance carries a fine of $150 for a violation, with fines increasing for repeat violations.

The beagle initially gave out a cry after the first bite and Whipker said he attempted to lift her by her leash to get her away from the shepherd but could not avoid the second bite that occurred.

Whipker’s pet is OK, he said.

“I am just psychologically hurting about this,” Whipker said.

City ordinance on discharging firearms

An amended 2013 ordinance dealing with discharging of firearms and use of weapons within the city limits states:

“No person shall fire or discharge, or cause to be fired or discharged, within the limits of the city any firearm or weapon.”

“This section shall not apply to police officers or soldiers in the discharge of their official duties while in the exercise of reasonable care; nor to a person using firearms or weapons in necessary self-defense; not to shooting clubs or other businesses or operations that have a fixed place of business within the city and whereby they have taken appropriate measures to ensure there is no danger to any person whatsoever.”

Signed by former Mayor Kristen Brown on July 9, 2013

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.