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Retired police sergeant charged with animal abuse in Manchester

By: Bonnie Krueger

[UPDATED Nov. 15 regarding charges] Four weeks after a pet dog named Ruger was shot in a Manchester neighborhood, formal criminal charges have been filed against the shooter. Ruger died of his injuries shortly after being shot.

On Nov. 7, retired St. Louis County Police Sgt. Barry Armfield, 62, was charged with a Class A animal abuse-first offense misdemeanor. Manchester Police had recommended an additional felony charge for unlawful use of a weapon; however, that charge was dismissed.

According to the detailed 38-page police report obtained by West Newsmagazine, Manchester police officers responded to a call on Oct. 4 that a single gunshot was fired and a dog was heard yelping near Spring Meadows and Ranch drives. On arrival at the 400 block of Spring Meadows Drive, an officer noted Armfield on his property, hosing down his driveway. The officer stopped to ask if he could corroborate reports of a gunshot or dog yelping. Armfield said, “no,” but thought perhaps he heard a transformer blow.

Leaving Armfield’s property, the officer discovered drops of blood near the northwest corner of Armfield’s driveway, which appeared fresh. A trail of fresh blood and various splatters leading away from his property also were noted by the officer, some containing strands of hair.

In the meantime, another officer was tracked down by the dog’s owners, Jacklynn Dukart and Robert Holtz Jr., who were in the process of transporting Ruger to an emergency veterinary clinic since it appeared their dog, a blue heeler mix weighing approximately 40 to 50 pounds, had been shot.

Several officers returned to Dukart’s property to see if there was a fresh blood trail that would lead them to the location where the dog had been shot. The officers were successful in following a blood trail that linked the Dukart’s home on Ranch back to Armfield’s home where the initial blood stains were noted.

Neighbors of Armfield provided a statement to police that they suspected the gunshot came from across the street and were able to provide a baby monitor audio recording that captured the sound of the gunshot and the dog yelping. In their statement, the neighbors said that Armfield admitted to shooting “a stray dog because it was growling at him.” However, the report indicates that no dog was heard barking prior to the gunshot. The baby monitor was provided to the police as evidence.

With the new evidence, the Manchester police approached Armfield, who, according to the report, appeared agitated that he was being bothered again. He denied any involvement in the shooting until officers pressed him a third time when he admitted to shooting the dog.

According to Armfield’s account, the dog approached him while he was in his driveway cleaning gear and equipment from a recent camping trip. The dog approached Armfield “showing its teeth” in a vicious manner. Armfield felt threatened that Ruger might attack. However, the dog suddenly left.

Armfield said he retrieved a 40-caliber commemorative pistol from a gun safe located in the garage in case the dog returned. He said the dog did suddenly reappear, barking, and Armfield felt his safety was threatened. For this reason, he drew his pistol and shot at the dog one time, the report states. In response, the dog yelped loudly and ran away. The dog later died while under the care of emergency veterinary doctors nearby.

Since Armfield claimed self-defense, he was not arrested at the time of the incident. However, after the report was presented to the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s office for review and following an investigation, that office decided to charge the retired sergeant.

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