The concerns of many residents of the small town of La Vernia, a community 30 minutes southeast of San Antonio, Texas, seem to be inevitable as apprehensions about the investigation of the killing of Toby, the hero dog shot by a neighbor in April lingers.
A news article set for release by the local Wilson County News newspaper, will report the local sheriff’s office is claiming their evidence shows that Toby, the rescued dog killed by a neighbor on April 12, 2014, was because of self-defense and appears to reject the dog owner’s side of the story.
Plagued by what some locals call a “good old boy” system, rumors are flying that Mike Coulter, the shooter of Toby is being protected because of his family’s long history in the community. Coulter, not identified by name in the newspaper article, reportedly has hired an attorney and “has received harassing calls of his place in employment” as a UPS driver.
"Of course, he's getting special treatment," said one neighbor. "People know each other for a long time around here. The folks around here grew up together and their father's went to school with each other. We all knew from the beginning what was going to happen with this good old boy system."
While the local report attempts to present the sheriff office viewpoint, the momentum continues to grow across the globe in support of family of the dog and “Justice for Toby” campaign by way of petitioning, writing letters, sending emails, and commenting on various social media sites.
During the initial contact with Sheriff Joe Tackitt's investiagtors, Ries told the Examiner in April that she sensed "they were rejecting the idea that he (Coulter) was guilty by some of their reactions and their statements, like every hunter knows that when an animal gets shot, if it's not in the head they will run."
Toby was a starving puppy rescued from a burning trash pit in war torn Afghanistan by a U.S. Army Captain. Soldiers nourished, named and nursed the dog that they found to be especially gentle and friendly. Toby became a symbol of love and solace for many soldiers and after hundreds of people raised thousands of dollars, the dog was welcomed to the United States. Toby found a loving family in a secure and spacious yard at a good home in Texas merely to be shot and killed by the Coulter.
After Rachel Ries, Toby’s owner, heard “at least two shots” from her next door neighbor’s gun she was frightened because her boys were outside that evening she told the Examiner in early May.
“I ran out and saw our Toby laying in my son’s arms in our back yard,” said Rie. “He was bleeding and died in his arms.”
Knowing her fence and yard was secure, Ries remembered her neighbor, Mike Coulter, had threatened one of her boys on February 22 indicating he was going to shoot “that white dog.”
Ries went next door to talk to Coulter about that incident, she describe him as acting strange and kept mentioning that she was not easy to talk to because she “always wears a military uniform when you are coming home or leaving for work.”
After 911 was called, Ries went to find Coulter.
“When I approached him and asked him why he shot our dog, he completely denied it,” Ries recalled. “But he finally admitted he killed Toby when the deputy arrived and started asking him questions.”
“The deputy agreed with us that he could smell alcohol on Coulter’s breath,” Ries added. “We were so shocked and it was so hard to believe he would do this to such a friendly dog.”
According to the Wilson County News article, written over a month after the killing, the sheriff’s investigator, Steven Moore, indicates there was no evidence that Coulter was intoxicated at the time of the killing.
Despite discussions with people who knew Toby to be a friendly dog, investigators were able to find a neighbor who stated Toby lunged at him and he used a shovel to swat the dog away, Moore told the Wilson County News. Clips floating on the Internet show various videos of Toby as a friendly and lovable dog. One neighbor has come forward to tell the Examiner a local neighbor is "making up false stories and trying to get us to side with them against the dog, but that dog should not have been killed because we know it wasn't their (Rachel Ries) dog that was, and keeps getting let loose, on the streets."
Coulter is claiming Toby was in his yard chasing his cat. Moore said the evidence he has turned up shows Toby was shot in Coulter’s yard and then went back to his own yard to die.