Family says police shot, killed dog

Six-month-old pit bull Rantz supposedly died a few hours after Delaware State Police gunfire during a Jan. 29 response to a domestic incident in Camden-Wyoming on Jan. 29. (Submitted photo/Slack family)

WYOMING — A pit bull puppy died after police gunfire last week during a domestic incident, though some details weren’t confirmed until more than a week later and several rounds of media questions that continued to expand the narrative.

While the Delaware State Police immediately acknowledged that a trooper targeted a reportedly hostile dog – later identified as 6-month old “Rantz” — that fled on Jan. 29, information on the 40-pound canine’s demise wasn’t confirmed until Tuesday.

For several days, police said it was unknown whether the Staffordshire pooch had even been wounded or was located.

This week, the DSP confirmed its investigative findings.

“During a follow up, a detective was informed by a third party that the dog had returned home and died,” Delaware State Police Spokeswoman Master Cpl. Melissa Jaffe said on Tuesday.

“The Delaware State Police did not see the dog after it had taken off into the woods.”

John R. Slack, 30, was charged with three misdemeanor offenses after State Police responded to a reported altercation with his girlfriend at their residence in the 7000 block of Westville Road, west of Wyoming. State Police confirmed firing toward his pet Rantz during the arrest at approximately 1:10 p.m.

While no mention of the trooper’s firearm discharge on Jan. 29 was referenced in Mr. Slack’s arrest affidavit, State Police told the Delaware State News that a detective “responded to the scene to conduct an investigation.”

Pictured are four shell casings reportedly located by friends and family after Delaware State Police gunfire targeted a pit bull during a domestic incident response in Camden-Wyoming on Jan. 29. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

According to Cpl. Jaffe, “The pit bull pertaining to this incident came at the trooper in an aggressive and threatening manner in which he felt he was in immediate danger.”

According to Mr. Slack’s brother Sam and 64-year-old family friend Robert Mehrtens, the defendant allegedly told police the dog had died on Jan. 30 — when he was arrested for violating a no-contact order by returning to the property. The men claimed nobody else was at the residence Mr. Slack owns when he was arrested the second time.

The men reported they collected four shell casings in the vicinity of the DSP’s weapons discharge. The casings were labeled in a plastic bag in anticipation of John Slack’s scheduled meeting with a public defender attorney this week to address the charges against him.

“When I saw them I was like ‘Dang, four shell casings, why didn’t the police take them for evidence?’” Sam Slack recounted.

Citing the pending legal proceedings, Mr. Slack declined comment through Mr. Mehrtens this week. He plead not guilty to all charges.

In an arrest affidavit, police said Mr. Slack was issued a no contact order with his girlfriend or the property “residence, place of employment, school, church, or at any other place.

“Additionally, John R. Slack was allowed to return (to the residence) on one occasion, only if accompanied by a police officer, for the sole purpose of obtaining clothes, health, and/or personal grooming items.”

Pictured is a residence in the 7000 block of Westville Road in Camden-Wyoming where the Delaware State Police reportedly fired at a pit bull on Jan. 29. (Submitted photo/Slack family)

Since posting unsecured bond on Jan. 30 after the no-contact issue, Mr. Slack — a maintenance mechanic and journeyman — has “bounced around” according to his brother.

Police said it was initially unknown whether the dog had been struck by gunfire since it fled into the woods, and offered no update on Feb. 2.

The extent of law enforcement’s search for a possibly injured Rantz was unclear. Police are not required to contact the Office of Animal Welfare when a wounded and potentially aggressive animal may roaming,

This week, State Police did not provide answers to media questions – “Generally speaking, does DSP have any investigation policy or report filed when a weapon is discharged toward a targeted animal?” and “Is there any information on how frequently a weapon is discharged toward an animal?”

Sam Slack was dismayed to read a newspaper article the day after the no contact arrest indicating that police did not know if the pit bull had been shot or was located.

“I don’t see how that trooper couldn’t have known that (Rantz) was hit,” he said, acknowledging that he was not present when the shots were fired.
“They made it sound like he could have still been out there on the loose and he was already dead.”

Sam Slack and Mr. Mehrtens claimed to have arrived at the scene within 90 minutes or so and found the wounded dog bleeding profusely from a gaping wound to his leg. Several calls to veterinarians and other animal services agencies were unsuccessful in the late afternoon and early evening, they said.

Rantz died a few hours later and was buried in the backyard.

The dog couldn’t have gone far after the shooting, the men said, considering its injured front left leg was being held on by fur only.

“It couldn’t have moved much because the leg would collapse every time (Rantz) tried to stand up,” Mr. Mehrtens said.

Also, the men said, the incident in question was fueled by a troubled roughly 10-year relationship that involved Mr. Slack and his girlfriend living in a home with seven children ages two to teenagers.

“We all think that it’s best that they separate for good,” Sam Slack said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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