A Tempe Man Repeatedly Shot Two Unleashed Dogs With a .44 Magnum. Was It Self-Defense?

A Tempe man is under investigation by police after shooting two unleashed dogs on January 2.
Marco Ramirez, a Tempe resident and father, was out running some errands on the evening of January 2 when he learned that his two rescue dogs had been shot multiple times by a neighbor. Both would eventually be pronounced dead at a veterinary hospital.

The neighbor was Dennis Goodwin, who Ramirez had never met, according to a Tempe Police Department report obtained through a public records request. He told police officers that he shot the dogs out of "fear of his safety."

But he did so with a .44 magnum revolver and unloaded over six shots into the two dogs, an indication that he had to stop to re-load when he killed the animals. A responding officer wrote in the report that Goodwin committed disorderly conduct, animal cruelty, and reckless display or discharge of a firearm.

"I was in shock," Ramirez said. "I could not believe somebody would shoot dogs."

Attempts to reach Goodwin were unsuccessful. He was not arrested or charged at the time of the incident, but the Tempe Police Department continues to investigate the case, according to Detective Natalie Barela, a department spokesperson.

As Ramirez tells it, he had let his two dogs — one was a pit bull-Labrador mix named "Jax" and the other dog, "Loba," was a German shepherd-boxer mix — out into his backyard before he left to get groceries. The yard is enclosed by concrete walls and an iron gate with wood boards. But neighbors were still lighting off fireworks, even though New Year's Eve had come and gone.

"It was Saturday. There were still a lot of fireworks," he said. "They got so scared. They tore through the wood."

This wasn't the first time they had been scared by fireworks, he said. As Jax got older, the dog would "nestle under anything" out of fear, according to Ramirez.

The police report doesn't substantiate this claim or provide much insight into what set the dogs off in the first place. But one witness, Mike Trujillo, told police that he had seen the dogs running around the neighborhood on previous days and that he had "never known the dogs to be aggressive." Ramirez also told police officers that the dogs would "typically power their way out of the yard through the wooden gate into the alley."

Other witness accounts appear to corroborate what happened before Goodwin unloaded on the dogs. Two neighbors, "Robert" and "Leticia," were inside their home when they learned that the dogs were attacking a cat next door. They headed outside and "observed the dogs killing a cat in [Goodwin's] front yard." They told Goodwin that the dogs had just killed a cat, then got on their bikes and followed the dogs as they kept running through the neighborhood. Goodwin followed them. Eventually, they turned back, only to see the dogs approach Goodwin's home again just as he was arriving home. Robert said that he saw the dogs "advancing" toward Goodwin and that they "lunged" at him, prompting Goodwin to fire two shots at the dogs. One dog ran off.

Another witness, Jessena Bishop, Trujillo's daughter, had reportedly "seen a cat attacked by dogs and was worried about a man walking around with a gun." When Trujillo arrived on the scene, he witnessed Goodwin "walking down the street with a family in front of him" while holding a "silver 'revolver' style pistol" that appeared to be a ".357 magnum." When Trujillo and Jessena got home, they saw one of the dogs bleeding on their patio, prompting them to call 911.

Goodwin's wife, Mary Beth Goodwin, told police that she and her husband were inside their home when their neighbors knocked on the door and told them that two dogs were "on the loose" and had just killed a cat outside their house. The cat was a stray that Dennis would feed.

Mary Beth and Dennis walked outside and saw the dogs approaching the cat. But she wasn't able to tell officers if the "cat had already been attacked" or if she saw the dogs "approach and then attack" the cat. Dennis scared the dogs off, walked back into his home, and grabbed his gun because he was "upset" that the dogs had attacked the cat, the report said. He searched for the dogs before returning home where Mary Beth was waiting with her grandchild. But the dogs came back and approached Dennis while "growling," she said. Dennis tried to wave them off, but one of the dogs "continued to aggressively approach him."

Then, when the dog was within "arm's reach" of Dennis, Mary Beth shouted, "shoot the dog, shoot the dog!" She said that Dennis shot the nearest dog "once" before the other dog came at him "in an aggressive manner" and he shot it too, the report says.

Veterinary staff told police that Jax was shot twice in an "arm" (foreleg), once in the chest, once in the pelvis, and once near its rear legs. Loba, was hit once in the neck, once in the "lower body," and once in a foreleg.

Police seized a silver .44 Magnum pistol and 12 bullet casings from the scene.

Ramirez said that Goodwin's decisions to roam the neighborhood with a large revolver and empty multiple rounds into the dogs was "excessive."

"There’s kids around his neighborhood," he said. "Does he carry a gun 24/7 like the Wild West?"