These days, it seems like violence is put in front of our faces at every turn. With war, murder, and mass shootings on the news, explosion-filled action movies, horror movies full of gruesome mutilation, and countless procedural crime dramas on TV, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that people have become desensitized to one person hurting another.
But when someone hurts an animal, that’s a different story. When the victim of violence is furry creature, especially a dog or cat, it somehow never fails to elicit a strong emotional response from many of us….
Couple In Love
Things were going well in Dustin’s life. About six months ago, he’d moved into the home of his fiancée Vicki. The Colorado couple hadn’t yet set a date for their wedding and were instead focusing on putting the house on the market and moving to another shared residence.
House of Tragedy
Part of the reason they wanted to move was becasue there were some bad memories associated with the home. About 2 years ago, Vicki’s 16-year-old son Skyelar was taken off of life support and died in that house after it was clear he would never recover from injuries he sustained in a car accident…
Since that tragic death, things had turned around for Vicki and a large part of that was her relationship with Dustin. “He was so sweet,” said Vicki’s mother looking back on that time. “He just seemed crazy about my daughter.”
In addition to being a good romantic partner, Dustin tried to be a great father figure to Vicki’s surviving child, a 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Dustin “made sure family nights, movie nights, eating out, bowling — he made sure that there was family time,” Vicki’s mother said.
Rounding out their family was Vicki’s energetic German shepherd mix Bruno. Her mother described him as “just a big old sweet dog.” Unfortunately, when Vicki rescued Bruno from a shelter in October, “they never told my daughter that this dog does not like to stay home. So she had to start leashing him up in the yard,” her mother added.
“He can still jump my daughter’s 6-foot fence,” Vicki’s mother said. “He has done it a few times.” One of the fences Bruno had jumped was the one that connected Vicki and Dustin’s backyard with their neighbor Michael’s. Thankfully, Michael was a nice guy and a dog lover, so it didn’t cause much of a problem…
Still At It
But one day in March, after they had started leashing Bruno up while he was out in the yard, the excitable dog tried once again to jump the fence into Michael’s yard. He wasn’t able to clear the 5-foot barrier but was still attached to the leash, nearly hanging himself.
When Vicki saw the dog in danger, she told Dustin who rushed to Bruno and pulled him back over the fence as quickly as possible, saving the dog from strangling himself. When he’d gotten Bruno back into the yard, he admonished him in a stern voice then, in the process of disciplining him, Dustin hit Bruno…
I Saw That
Michael had gone to his window to see what the commotion was about. “He was looking out his bedroom window and he yelled at Dustin, ‘Did you just hit that dog?’” Vicki’s mother said. “Yeah, he’s in trouble,” Vicki replied. That apparently crossed a line for Michael, who began yelling and cursing.
After the verbal exchange, Michael Sadeghi walked out into his backyard. As Dustin Schmidt was walking back toward his house, with Vicki and her daughter standing right there, Sadeghi shot him point-blank in the back of the head several times…
Please Wake Up
“I was just a few feet away,” Vicki Branaghan said. “Mike turned around and walked back into his house as though nothing happened.” As he was walking away, Vicki dropped down to her fiancée’s side. “She was trying to hold him, saying ‘Please wake up, please wake up,’” Vicki’s mother said.
After her initial moment of shock, Vicki rushed inside her house to find her phone and call 911. But by the time she ran back to Dustin’s side, “she said she knew he was gone,” her mother said…
By that time, a number of Vicki’s neighbors were already calling 911 after they heard the shots ring out. By the time first responders arrived, there was nothing they could do to help Dustin, confirming Vicki’s fears.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the entire episode is that, before the shooting, there had never been any tension between the 2 neighbors. “There was no feud between them,” one neighbor said. “Nothing.”…
Dustin and Sadeghi had even walked their dogs together from time to time. “Everyone around here is shocked,’ Vicki’s mother said. “It was so unprovoked.” From what Vicki said, Sadeghi’s only motivation for the killing was Dustin’s perceived mistreatment of Bruno.
But according to Vicki’s mother, Bruno wasn’t even being mistreated. “They weren’t beating him. They were just swatting,” she said. If true it would mean that Dustin was killed over fairly normal, though not perfect, disciplinary methods…
The 32-year-old Michael Sadeghi was arrested without incident under suspicion of 1st degree murder, said Police in Thornton, Colorado. However, unlike Vicki and her family, they were not yet 100% certain of Sadeghi’s motivations.
“Right now, no motive has been established. All indications are that these people — up until last night — got along,” said a police spokesman. “We’re still trying to figure out why one neighbor shot another.”…
Not Worth it
But Vicki and her family were equally sure that Sadeghi shot Dustin over the dog and that it was a completely absurd reaction. “In the end of the day, a man shouldn’t lose his life over it,” said Vicki’s brother Will. “He was an awesome man.”
Now instead of looking for a home with her fiancée, Vicki Branaghan has to find a home to escape his memory — along with that of her son. “They both died here,” she said. “I need to move. I can’t stay here.”