Saturday, May 26, 2018
Public safety

Dog slips leash in St. Petersburg; angry motorist shoots owner

ST. PETERSBURG — A man walking his dog was shot in the leg by a disgruntled motorist after the animal lurched into the road, forcing a pickup to stop.

St. Petersburg police are searching for a man who shot Peter Harbachuk, 46, on Friday after his dog got off her leash.

Harbachuk and his wife, Annie, 62, had taken their golden retriever, Bella, for a walk near their home.

The dog seemed fine but at one point got spooked by a neighbor's dog, Harbachuk said.

The 4-year-old dog wiggled her way off the leash and bolted across the road near 88th Avenue N and Seventh Street, running in front of a dark pickup.

The truck stopped, and a woman got out and yelled at the couple, St. Petersburg police said.

Harbachuk said he calmly asked the woman to get back in her truck, saying he was going to get his dog under control.

The woman got back in the truck. But the problem escalated.

"Some dude hopped out and he pointed a gun toward my head," Harbachuk said. "I said, 'Hey, this doesn't have to go down like this.' "

The man lowered the gun a bit, closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger, he said. He and the woman sped away, and police and paramedics arrived soon after.

Neighbor James Arbogast, 31, gave a different account. He said he saw Harbachuk run up to the pickup before the shooting. The truck was driving away but reached a stop sign, where Harbachuk started yelling and banging on the passenger-side window, Arbogast said.

He said he saw the man get out. Seconds later, the shot was fired.

Harbachuk disputed that account.

"I never ran out to the guy's car. There was no verbal confrontation at all. Period," he said. "There was a lot of commotion, and I might have seen where the guy had been confused."

Police said Harbachuk was shot in the leg, but he has been released from Bayfront Medical Center and is back at home recovering.

The truck is described as a dark pickup, possibly a Ford F-150. Police said the man is 30 to 35 years old, about 5 feet 10 and about 200 pounds, clean-shaven and muscular. The woman is 25 to 30 years old, about 5 feet 5 and petite, with short brown hair.

Harbachuk said he's shocked by how quickly the situation turned violent.

"This could've been anyone. It could've been my wife," he said. "It could have been just any person walking down the street."

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