COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — He was dubbed the "Dog Hater."
But now Cottonwood Heights police say their investigation has taken a complete 180-degree turn and a man wanted for allegedly pulling a gun on a group of dog walkers may have actually been the victim and was defending himself.
Saturday evening, a man was walking his two dogs with friends near 3000 E. Danish Road. He later told police that his dogs were spooked by fireworks and nipped a man who was walking by.
That man allegedly responded by pulling out a gun and threatening the dog walkers.
But after the incident was reported by the local news, the man who pulled the gun turned himself over to police and gave a different story, which detectives Wednesday said seems to be backed up by the evidence.
The gunman actually had to be treated by a doctor after the dogs knocked him to the ground and bit his leg and face, said Cottonwood Heights police detective Ryan Shosted.
"The guy was attacked by the dogs and feared for his own safety," he said.
The dogs that were being walked were both about 70 pounds, Shosted said. One was an Australian Shepherd and the other a Blue Heeler.
"He was walking past the dog owner and the dogs jumped on his back and knocked him down," he said.
The man had a bruise on his knee consistent with being knocked over. Shosted said the bite on his leg was also "significant" and part of his finger tip was bitten off.
The man, in his late 60s to early 70s, was an Army veteran and had a concealed weapons permit. He pulled out a handgun and told the dog owner to get his dogs off him or he would shoot them, Shosted said. He later told police it was the first time he had ever pulled his concealed weapon out.
After detectives heard the man's story, they went back to the dog owner and after interviewing him, cited him for the dog bite. He was allowed to keep his dogs, however, as they were both licensed and had had rabies shots.
The case with the gun will now be reviewed by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office. But Shosted said it has all the appearances of a case of self-defense.
"Ultimately, the guy was legally carrying a gun and he was in fear for his safety," he said.
Cottonwood Heights police have had several recent reports of a man pulling out a gun on people walking dogs. Shosted said, however, that this appeared to be an isolated incident and detectives do not believe he is connected to other incidents.