February 16, 2017 · 1 Comments
By Mike Pickford
A Mono couple is still looking for answers after their three-year-old dog Diesel was found dead more than a year ago on a neighbouring property.
Chantel and Kevin Welsh have spent much of the past year piecing together information and lobbying Dufferin OPP to find out exactly what happened to their beloved dog, after he was found fatally wounded in the early hours of Jan. 4, 2016. Now, almost 14 months on from the horrific incident, the pair has decided to speak out and bring attention to what they contend was a “botched” OPP investigation, filing an official complaint with the Office of Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) in the process.
“This last year has been pretty close to our worst nightmare,” Mr. Welsh told the Citizen. “To have a member of your family taken away from you is absolutely terrible, but it’s worse when you get the feeling that you’re not being taken seriously by the only people you’re supposed to be able to trust and rely on in horrible situations like this.”
After returning home from a late-night hockey game in Tottenham, the couple, as they do most nights, decided to take a dip in their hot tub, letting their four dogs outside to roam on their Mono Centre Road property. They withdrew back into the warmth of their home shortly before midnight only to notice a short time later that Diesel had not followed them.
“That wasn’t particularly strange – Diesel used to spend an extra five or 10 minutes outside, almost surveying everything before coming in,” Mr. Welsh said. “He was a Doberman, so liked to make sure everything was okay before he’d go to bed.”
After waiting a few more minutes and calling for Diesel to come inside, Mr. Welsh went out to look for him. Mrs. Welsh soon followed and, after searching the property for close to 30 minutes, she noticed paw prints in fresh snow that led into a neighbour’s backyard.
“That’s when I saw Diesel slumped over in the snow, not moving,” Mrs. Welsh recalled.
Mr. Welsh quickly recovered Diesel’s body, fearing it could be targeted by a nearby band of coyotes, and retreated to their home where they promptly called the OPP.
According to the couple, three officers responded to the call and spent approximately 40 minutes talking to them, speaking with the neighbours and briefly investigating the area where Diesel’s body was found. According to Mr. Welsh, one of the officers debated whether or not Diesel had actually been shot.
“One of the officers asked Chantel and I if we had ever seen a bullet wound before, because what they were looking at here with Diesel wasn’t a bullet wound,” Mr. Welsh said. “The officer told us it looked more like a puncture wound than anything.”
But after Diesel’s body was taken to a local veterinarian it was quickly determined that the dog had suffered from a fatal bullet wound.
“The bullet went right through an artery in his heart,” Mr. Welsh said. “It killed him almost instantly.”
Mr. Welsh then relayed this information via email to Constable Shannon Gordanier, the officer in charge of following up on the case. Following several back and forth emails, Cst. Gordanier confirmed on Feb. 11 that she had interviewed one of the three people living in the neighbouring property, while also confirming she would be in contact with the Centre for Forensic Science for analysis on the bullet recovered from Diesel’s body. According to Mr. Welsh, that was the last correspondence the pair had with anyone from the OPP until early April.
“I sent several emails to the constable and didn’t get a reply, I started calling once a week, trying to get an update but again, didn’t get a reply,” Mr. Welsh said. “Eventually we had enough. One of the people we reached out to immediately after the shooting – Alliston SPCA founder and retired animal cruelty investigator Rick Foley – reached out to the Dufferin detachment’s staff sergeant at the time (Steven Sills) to find out what was going on.”
Just a few days on from that phone call, the Welshes received a call of their own from Cst. Gordanier, who wished to update them regarding her investigation. Later that same day, April 2, OPP officers obtained a .22-calibre long rifle from the neighbours, which they would submit for testing.
Eager to get to the bottom of the incident, Mr. Welsh continued his email correspondence with Cst. Gordanier, who he says “showed annoyance” at the couple involving her superior officer. Almost a month on (April 29), and following no updates regarding the firearm, Mr. Welsh sent another email to Cst. Gordanier, tagging a number of high-ranking regional OPP officials, seeking an update on the investigation.
The following day, April 30, Mr. and Mrs. Welsh say they received a “courtesy” home visit from Sergeant Derek Zayachkowski and Cst. Gordanier where, with Mr. Foley present, they said they had “exhausted all possible avenues” in their investigation.
According to Mr. Welsh, Sgt. Zayachkowski said the OPP had “canvassed the area” and spoken to all neighbouring property owners regarding the incident. Mr. Welsh says the officers also told him they had tested the bullet found in Diesel’s body and confirmed that it was a 22-calibre bullet.
Several summer months passed, with Mr. Welsh and Sgt. Zayachkowski remaining in contact via email. Then, on August 11, Sgt. Zayachkowski sent an email stating the rifle obtained from the neighbour and the bullet pulled from Diesel’s body were not, in fact, a calibre match. Mr. Welsh said he and his wife also reached out to several neighbours, only to be told they had no knowledge of the OPP investigation.
Confused by this revelation, Mr. Welsh says he asked for clarification and quizzed the sergeant about what the OPP’s next move was. Mr. Welsh told the Citizen he received very little response from this point forward and has had almost no correspondence from the detachment since October of last year.
“In the end, we decided we had to try and take this into our own hands a little bit and lodge an official complaint regarding the way this investigation has been handled,” Mr. Welsh said. “I’m not a confrontational person, but this whole ordeal has been very difficult for me to deal with. Sales in my business are down because I haven’t been able to focus at all. It’s been hard for us not to think about what the next step is, or where we’re at with this investigation.”
Having submitted the complaint, which names Cst. Gordanier, Sgt. Zayachkowski and a third Dufferin OPP officer, Mr. and Mrs. Welsh say they want to bring attention to this investigation so nobody has to go through the heartbreak and mental anguish they’ve had to put up with for the past 14 months.
“We’ve pretty much accepted at this point that there isn’t going to be any closure for us. Our goal now is to make sure nobody else has to go through what we’ve gone through over the past year,” Mr. Welsh said. “The fact that we’re sitting here, over a year on from a serious gun violation in a residential area without a resolution is disgusting. I was raised to always have respect and faith in the police, but after this I have no faith left whatsoever.”
When asked for comment, Media Officer for Dufferin OPP Paul Nancekivell said the detachment would not be commenting on the incident.
“Unfortunately, this investigation is subject of a complaint against two of our officer(s),” Mr. Nancekivell wrote. “We will not be commenting or speaking on this incident as an OPIRD investigation is underway. This is at direction of my Detachment Commander (Nicol Randle).”