Crime

Bellingham man ‘extremely regretful’ for shooting neighbor’s corgi

Molly, a corgi, was shot and killed in her owner’s backyard in the 1200 block of Undine Street by David William Latham on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 in Bellingham, Wash.
Molly, a corgi, was shot and killed in her owner’s backyard in the 1200 block of Undine Street by David William Latham on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 in Bellingham, Wash. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A Bellingham man annoyed by a barking dog was formally charged with felony animal cruelty Friday, Sept. 19, for shooting his neighbors’ corgi in their backyard.

The story of how David William Latham, 55, shot and killed the 13-month-old dog, Molly, went viral online this week, especially among corgi owners around the country.

A Facebook page, Justice for Molly the Corgi, had more than 2,600 “likes” as of Friday evening, and several write-in campaigns were asking the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office to seek “the greatest punishment available for this crime.”

One family from New Hampshire, whose dog just had a litter of pups, offered to drive across the country to deliver a new corgi puppy to the bereaved family at 1224 Undine St.

On the evening of the shooting, a dog had been barking and whining for hours in the Puget neighborhood before Latham grabbed a small-caliber rifle and walked across the street to a knee-high fence in his neighbor’s backyard. Without saying a word, he fired one round into Molly’s chest in front of her owners at 7:20 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, according to charging papers. He turned around and slowly walked away.

One of Molly’s owners, Cary Chunyk, chased after Latham and shouted, “You just shot my dog!” But Chunyk retreated when Latham raised both of his arms in the air, with the rifle still in his right hand. Only later did Latham realize the barking dog was not the Pembroke Welsh corgi but another dog uphill from 1224 Undine.

Police noted Latham “appeared to be fairly intoxicated and had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath,” according to the charges. Officers recovered nine guns from his home.

In the chaos just after the shooting, authorities told Chunyk and his wife, Loyce Andrews, they should stay home until the gunman was arrested. So they cradled Molly, and wrapped her towels, as she bled for a half-hour before dying.

“I wanted to get her into the car and get her on the road,” Andrews said. “I’ve had animals all my life, and it was obvious she was seriously hurt.”

A necropsy performed by a Whatcom Humane Society veterinarian, Karen Rounds, found the gunshot pierced Molly’s right carotid artery. She died from severe hemorrhaging.

“Given the extensive innervation in the area,” Rounds wrote in a report, “the injury would have been very painful.”

Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Connor charged Latham with animal cruelty in the first degree, a class C felony, and two misdemeanors: brandishing a weapon and second-degree criminal trespassing.

Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett ordered Latham to surrender a beagle in his home, a dog he said had been a Christmas gift to his fiancée. The grown dog, named Sadie, has since been turned over to the humane society. He’s allowed to keep two cats he’s owned for about eight years. He remains out on bail.

At the time of the shooting, Latham worked as a branch manager at a Bellingham branch of Chase Bank. Both a district manager and a spokeswoman for Chase declined to say if he’s still employed there, citing bank policy.

Latham’s attorney, Adrian Madrone, released a statement to The Bellingham Herald on Friday afternoon in response to the public outrage over the shooting: “On behalf of Mr. Latham, we ask that the community respect the ongoing legal process and allow the full facts in this case to come out. Mr. Latham is extremely regretful and remorseful for his actions. He is a lifelong animal owner, and is very sorry for the pain he has caused. We simply ask that we be allowed to give his side of the story through the legal process before judgment is passed.”

This week Chunyk and Andrews have been “totally overwhelmed” by letters and messages of sympathy. They hope Molly’s death will be a flashpoint for stronger animal cruelty laws.

“People love their animals like children. So we’re going to get this turned into something positive,” Andrews said. “The outpouring of support has been phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal.”

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