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General News    H3'ed 5/13/10

Dog Takes a Leak, Fatal Shooting Ensues

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   3 comments
Message Roger Shuler
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
A fox terrier puppy stopped to relieve himself on some grass Sunday evening in Chicago. A few minutes later, the dog's owner lay dead from a gunshot wound.

Charles J. Clements, 69, has been arrested in the shooting death of 23-year-old Joshua Funches. Their confrontation started when Clements, a regular winner of neighborhood beautification awards, noticed the dog urinating on his lawn.

According to news reports, Clements instructed Funches to keep the dog off his lawn, and Funches sassed the former Marine and retired truck driver. That sparked an argument that ended in gunfire. The story shines an unfortunate spotlight on property-related issues, a frequent topic here at Legal Schnauzer.

Here is how the Chicago Tribune describes the incident:

Joshua Funches, a 23-year-old father of two, was walking his fox terrier Gucci in the 500 block of Landau Road on Sunday night when the dog lifted its leg and urinated on Clements' lawn, said Funches' mother Patricia, 53.

The two men began arguing, and at some point, Clements, a retired truck driver, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at Funches, a Crete-Monee High School graduate who drove a bus, said Will County Assistant State's Attorney Sondra Denmark.

Witnesses said Funches then said to Clements, "Next time you pull out a pistol, why don't you use it?" Denmark said. At that point, witnesses said they saw orange and white light and heard a loud noise. They saw Funches fall to the ground.

"It was all over a little wooden plaque," said an emotional Patricia Funches, referring to the beautification award. "It was a senseless death."

A report in the Chicago Sun-Times indicates Clements did not have a gun when he initially spoke to Funches, but went back in his house to get the weapon after the two had argued. The report says the shooting occurred several doors down from where Clements lived:

Will County prosecutors made no mention of the dog urinating in the yard when they outlined their case at a bond hearing Tuesday, saying only that Funches was walking the dog and crossed the lawn, which resulted in words exchanged with Clements and escalated into a shouting match and some shoving before the older man pulled a gun and shot him.

Funches' mother said she was told by neighbors that after the initial arguments Clements went back into his house to get the gun and returned to shoot her son, who by then was several houses down the block on his way home, which would undermine any self-defense claim.

Patricia Williams, 16, pointed out to me the weed-strewn yard where Funches was actually shot.

You wonder if Clements would have stopped himself if it had meant spilling blood in his own yard.

The story raises a number of legal and ethical questions, not to mention high emotions. One Chicago columnist said it reflects two conflicting American values: the lawn as icon and our love of dogs.

I think it's more complicated than that--and I have a lot of personal experience in this area. The legal headaches I've reported on this blog started when a man with an extensive criminal record, Mike McGarity, moved in next door to us and immediately began trampling on our property rights.

McGarity built a fence on our yard that took up about 400 square feet of our property. When we noticed the possible encroachment, we had our yard resurveyed to prove it. Then we had a lawyer send McGarity a letter, stating the fence would have to be moved and we expected to be reimbursed for our expenses.

After removing the fence and failing to reimburse us, McGarity apparently decided to retaliate. He, family members, and guests began to repeatedly trespass on our property. Our house was vandalized repeatedly--with eggs, paintballs, objects thrown through our windows, you name it.

When I told McGarity verbally on multiple occasions to stay off our yard, he threatened to sue me for "harassment." My wife and I consulted with multiple lawyers before I swore out a warrant against McGarity for criminal trespass, third degree. He was acquitted at trial, even though the transcript shows he confessed to the crime as charged, and that allowed him--with the help of lawyer William E. Swatek--to sue me for malicious prosecution.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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