Authorities will not pursue charges in connection to the shooting of a Powell veteran’s service dog last month, according to a Thursday news release from the Park County Sheriff’s Office.
The dog, a Belgian Malinois named Michael, was shot and killed Oct. 10 by a bicyclist who said the dog attacked him.
Michael belonged to Matthew Bessler. The duo had served two tours in Iraq together, and the dog helped Bessler with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Powell resident Jeffery Brandt told deputies he was riding his mountain bike when he was attacked by Michael. Brandt said he got off his bike and used it to shield himself. He was able to reach his bicycle-mounted holstered revolver and shoot the dog.
Brandt said he was genuinely in fear of his life and the dog was "definitely in full attack mode and not backing down at all,” the news release states.
The sheriff’s office interviewed Bessler’s neighbors and a witness to the shooting, as well as witnesses of Michael’s alleged past aggression. According to the release, Michael had attacked a 70-year-old man earlier this year.
The sheriff said he was confident Michael was “a caring, faithful companion to Mr. Bessler,” according to the release.
Steward stated Michael was “probably only acting as he was trained to do,” the release says.
“This was a tragic situation for all those involved,” Steward said in the release. “There are no winners here, only losers.”
When reached by phone Friday, Bessler said he was “completely disgusted with the Park County Sheriff’s Department and their sheriff.”
He said the sheriff’s office did not order a necropsy on Michael, and instead Bessler had the procedure done.
He also said he was not contacted by the sheriff’s office directly but heard through the media of the decision not to file charges.
Bessler said he has plans to take legal action in the future, but declined to elaborate.
He said he wasn’t sure yet if he would acquire another service dog. When asked what he missed most about Michael, he said “everything.”
“There’s not one specific attribute that stands out, because he stood out on his own,” Bessler said. “He’s missed as a family member. He was a part of my family.”
Brandt could not be contacted for this article.