Police officer charged after shooting friendly dog

Brandon Carpenter and Arzy; policeman Brian Thierbach (not pictured) claimed the dog bit his foot, prompting the officer to shoot the 14-year-old mutt in the head.

In late April, traveling musician Brandon Carpenter of Portland, Maine, experienced the tragedy of a lifetime during a trip through Sulphur, Louisiana.

Carpenter, 28, was visiting the small Calcasieu Parish town with his dog Arzy, a Labrador RetrieverNewfoundlandGolden Retriever mix, and their friend, 21-year-old Logan Laliberte. Arzy, Carpenter, and Laliberte had been traveling around the country performing, hopping trains, and hitching rides, the Portland Press Herald reports, and were on their way to stay with a friend in Lake Charles.

The trio arrived in Sulphur during a rainstorm, so they took refuge in the back of an old box truck in the parking lot of a newspaper office to wait out the bad weather. Unfortunately, their choice of shelter prompted someone to call the police.

Officer Brian Thierbach of the Sulphur Police Department was the responding officer. Carpenter says he and his friend were sleeping when Officer Thierbach arrived and ordered them out of the truck. Thierbach put Carpenter and Laliberte in handcuffs, told them to lie on the ground, and then proceeded into the truck to retrieve their belongings.

“We were extremely compliant. We did everything he asked us to do,” Carpenter insists.

Meanwhile, Arzy was inside the truck, secured by a 4-foot leash. When Thierbach asked if Arzy was going to attack him, Carpenter said there was no way, that Arzy was harmless and sweet.

“I said no, it’s an incredibly friendly dog,” Carpenter remembers.

Newspaper employee Eric Midkiff looked on as Officer Thierbach approached Arzy, the police officer allegedly even petting the dog for a few seconds.

“His tongue was out. His tail was wagging. That’s my dog,” Carpenter said of Arzy. “Arzy maybe did a little sniff, like do you want to play?”

That’s when, without warning, Officer Thierbach drew his gun, shooting and killing Arzy.

Arzy was only 14 months old when he died.

“Then [the officer] jumped down from the back of the truck and shoots my dog in the head,” says Carpenter. “I watched him convulse his last breath and twitch the life out of him.”

Carpenter says he and Laliberte watched in horror as poor Arzy’s body was disposed of, thrown into a garbage bag. When Carpenter insisted that Officer Thierbach had needlessly shot Arzy, Thierbach claimed the dog had attacked him and bitten him in his foot.

But Eric Midkiff, the newspaper employee, witnessed the entire incident. Midkiff contends that Arzy never attacked Officer Thierbach, and said as much in his official report. Midkiff confirms that Arzy was indeed wagging his tail, happily greeting Officer Thierbach in a friendly manner. Theirbach shot Arzy when the lovable dog brushed up against him.

“All he had to do is take one giant step back,” Carpenter tells the Sulphur Daily News. “Why didn’t he ask me to move the dog or just take one big step back if he was uncomfortable?”

The loss of his dog has taken a toll on Carpenter, who maintains that Arzy was an innocent victim.

“That dog wouldn’t hurt a fly. Everybody loved Arzy,” Carpenter tells the Bangor Daily News (BGN). “Everybody said, ‘Oh, he’s so friendly. So gentle.’ He was an angel in dog form.”

Following Arzy’s death, the Sulphur Police Department launched an investigation into whether or not Officer Thierbach’s conduct was appropriate given the circumstances.

“I am a dog lover and I am deeply saddened by this incident,” Sulphur Police Chief Louis Coats told the BGN in early May. “I realize there is nothing I can say that would take away the hurt this incident has caused Mr. Carpenter. The actions of Officer Thierbach did not represent what I expect from the officers of the Sulphur Police Department.”

Officer Thierbach submitted his resignation May 7, but the department continued a criminal investigation.

“Those of us who serve as law enforcement officers do so with the responsibility of serving and protecting the community as professionals,” Chief Coats added. “The resignation of Officer Theirbach was accepted so that the officers and community can heal and move forward.”

Carpenter said Thierbach’s resignation was certainly a step in the right direction, but continued to push for justice. Supporters started a Facebook group, “Justice for Arzy,” hoping law enforcement would punish Thierbach.

Finally, on June 5, a grand jury served Brian Thierbach with an indictment for one count of aggravated animal cruelty. A warrant was issued for Thierbach’s arrest. Thierbach was taken into custody and his bail has been set at $20,000.

“They came to the right decision,” Carpenter tells the Southwest Daily News.

Sources: Southwest Daily News, “Justice for Arzy”, Sulphur Daily News, Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald