Man shot and killed 2 dogs during ‘mental health incident’

Man shot and killed 2 dogs during ‘mental health incident’

OCEANA COUNTY – A Pleasant Lake man has been arraigned on six felony counts after shooting and killing two dogs, and threatening others, during a mental health crisis, police said.

Thomas Duling, 55, is currently out on bond after the July 2 incident, said Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast.

Last week, officers were called to a residence in the 7400 block of Johnson Road. Mast said Duling was dog sitting for the caller who was staying at an Airbnb, near Silver Lake State Park, that did not allow dogs.

Mast said the victim showed up to find his two dogs, an American bulldog and pitbull, shot in the head and killed by Duling, who was armed and unclothed. Mast said Duling was armed with both a rifle and a handgun.

“The property owner then made threats to the victim that made him fearful for his life,” Mast said. The victim then left the property and called 911.

Duling was arraigned in Oceana County’s 79th District Court on two counts of felony animal abandonment/cruelty; assault with a dangerous weapon; and three counts of felony firearm. He was bonded out with a $25,000 cash/surety bond.

Mast said as deputies were on their way to the scene Tuesday evening, a “neighboring farmer pulls up to the property line and also has contact with the suspect, who’s naked.”

Duling brandished a firearm and threatened the neighbor as well, Mast said.

Upon arrival to his residence, Mast said officers could not find Duling outside.

“Because of our concern for his mental health, his safety and ours, we decided to back off for the evening,” Mast said. “We didn’t want to be traipsing around his property in the dark while he is potentially armed with a rifle.”

Officers then held a perimeter around Duling’s residence while they waited to obtain a search warrant and arrest warrant on the six felony counts.

The next day, Wednesday, July 3, Duling’s family contacted law enforcement, “concerned about his mental wellbeing and decision making and were requesting law enforcement assistance in having him assessed,” Mast said.

Police used a drone to search the property for Duling. They tried calling his cell phone with no answer. Next, police sent an armored vehicle onto the property, which Duling approached.

“He was easy to distinguish, as he was still naked, he had a tarp or towel wrapped around his shoulder like a wrap or maybe a cape,” Mast said.

Duling ran a short distance before falling and then using the tarp to cover himself on the ground.

“We were concerned about him still being armed,” Mast said. “He was ordered to show his hands, which he would not do.

“We eventually used some blunt force to inflict a little coercion for him to show his hands,” Mast continued.

At first, Duling showed his hands, but then “rescinded his hands back under the blanket and a struggled ensued.”

Mast said officers found one of the dead dogs under the blanket with Duling, who resisted for some time before eventually getting handcuffed and taken into custody. He was briefly hospitalized for medical and psychological evaluation and was found to be “well enough” to be lodged in the Oceana County Jail.

Photos were taken of the two dogs for evidence, and then their bodies were returned to the owner.

“The dog owner was staying in contact with us, they were concerned about the situation, they wanted to recover their dogs so they could bury them,” Mast said. “They were worried about the suspect, as they knew this was very far out of character.”

Mast said Duling lives in the area west of Shelby during the summers. In the winter, he resides in Pleasant Lake. The dog owner had previously lived with Duling in Pleasant Lake for some time, and that’s why he asked him to watch his dogs, because they were familiar with each other.

“This really appears to be more of a mental health situation than anything,” Mast said. “I think this is not spurred by a criminal effort, this is spurred by some sort of mental health break and substances may be involved, we’re not fully aware of that yet.”

Duling is presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of law.

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