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Prosecutor: No charges in shooting of dog near Claremont tennis courts

  • Gunner, a mastiff-boxer mix, was shot at Monadnock Park in Claremont, N.H., on May 26, 2019. (Courtesy Taysa Combs) Courtesy Taysa Combs

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2019 3:18:40 PM
Modified: 6/20/2019 10:21:44 PM

CLAREMONT — Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway on Thursday said a Claremont lawyer was legally justified in the shooting of a dog in a Claremont park last month.

Jeremy T. Connair shot and injured Gunner, a 2-year-old mastiff-boxer mix, just outside the tennis courts at Monadnock Park on the evening of May 26 because he had a “reasonable” fear that he was about to be attacked by the dog, Hathaway said in a news release.

Gunner, who had been off-leash on the courts, rushed out of the gate and started barking or growling as Connair approached, the release said.

“Mr. Connair was reasonable, given Gunner’s proximity, in believing that the attack was imminent, and the shot was necessary to end the threat and prevent an attack,” Hathaway wrote in explaining why Connair won’t be charged.

Connair, who was in the park over Memorial Day weekend to play tennis with his girlfriend, was carrying a pistol in a pocket of his cargo pants, the release said.

Gunner, who is owned by Claremont resident Taysa Combs, underwent emergency surgery for the wound to his right shoulder area and had been improving. On Thursday, she said Gunner hasn’t been himself lately and must undergo at least two more surgeries.

“It is not the outcome I had hoped for; however, it is the outcome I anticipated,” Combs said via social media.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Hathaway said he applied two statutes during his analysis of the shooting. One pertains to a law that states a person may kill a dog “that suddenly assaults the person while such person is peaceably walking or riding without the enclosure of its owner or keeper,” and the other is the “justification statute,” which governs competing harms and use of force, among other things.

There is no ordinance prohibiting gun possession in parks in Claremont.

Hathaway’s investigation found that Combs put Gunner in the enclosed courts to exercise and play on the evening in question, an act she did because “she did not trust Gunner off leash,” he wrote.

Connair and his girlfriend Kristina Marinelli walked to the courts to play tennis, and before Connair opened the door, Combs asked the pair to wait so she could put Gunner back on his leash, which she went to get on the tennis court’s net, the release states.

“As Mr. Connair approached the tennis court, Gunner pushed open the unsecured tennis court door; Gunner exited the tennis court and went toward Mr. Connair barking and/or growling,” Hathaway wrote.

Connair “retreated” and Gunner “chased” him, prompting Combs to ask Connair not to run because she figured the dog would think he wanted to play, the release states.

Connair felt Gunner’s barking/growling was aggressive and thought Gunner was going to attack him, Hathaway wrote, so Connair pulled a .380-caliber Sig Sauer gun out of his pocket and pointed it at Gunner, Hathaway said on Thursday.

Combs told him not to shoot, but Connair fired one shot, striking Gunner in the shoulder area from a distance of about 6 feet.

“Mr. Connair’s firing a shot into Gunner was justified given his reasonable belief that the shot fired was urgently needed to prevent an attack by Gunner on him,” Hathaway wrote.

Jeremy Connair has worked for Leahy, Denault, Connair & Hodgman, a Claremont law firm. Connair said he was unable to speak with a reporter on Thursday. A follow-up email sent to him on Thursday evening wasn’t returned, nor was a message left for him at the law firm.

Dogs are permitted in Claremont’s parks so long as they are “in control by a leash or under command of the owner.” However, they aren’t allowed in “the fenced-in portion of game playing facilities,” according to the city’s website.

Since the shooting, Combs said, she has learned a lot about New Hampshire gun laws and rights, as well as park rules and regulations and school zones, which she said she thought she was in at the time.

She said veterinarian bills for Gunner, who has both internal and external rods to support his damaged leg, are expected to exceed $7,000.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@ or 603-727-3248.

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