Advertisement
  1. Hillsborough

Vader, the Siberian Husky shot by a Riverview security guard, recovering after surgery

Kelley Hill, 32, sits in the backseat with her dog Vader on their way home from Fetch Veterinary Centers in Brandon. The Siberian Husky was shot and wounded. [ANASTSIA DAWSON | Times]
Published Aug. 17

RIVERVIEW — For six days, two bullets remained lodged in Vader's body.

One struck the seven-year-old Siberian Husky mix in the chest, piercing his lungs and shattering his left leg. The other lay just beneath the dog's skin, forming a visible bulge in his back.

His owners say it shouldn't have happened. The private security guard who fired four rounds at the dog, and his owners' home, was standing more than 30 feet away when he saw the dog bound out the front door and began shooting, they said.

"The second bullet hit his back when he was trying to run away, and when it hit there wasn't even enough force for the bullet to get lodged in there," said Kelley Hill, who lives in the house off Hoffner Edge Drive where her boyfriend, David Zimmerman, has raised Vader since he was a puppy. "If he had shot him at close range, if the dog really had been attacking him, that gun would have blown him to pieces, right? He wouldn't even be here."

Hill said the dog has had to endure a complicated surgery and a grueling, week-long schedule of in-patient medical treatments. But on Friday evening, the couple finally got to take Vader home to his brothers — a German Shepherd named Bear and a Jack Russell terrier named Hunter.

"The treatment he needed was so complicated there was only one vet in the whole area who said they could do it," said Hill, 32. "We went back and forth with our choices, whether we should find a way to pay for it and hope it worked or if we should just say forget it and put him down. But then we both realized that, no, we have to try. We don't have any children, and none of this was his fault. We had to save him."

A host of neighbors helped the couple set up a Go Fund Me page — Justice for Vader — to help raise money to cover the mounting medical bills. By Friday evening, the page had raised nearly $3,000 of its $15,000 goal.

When he saw his owners Friday, Vader seemed poised for a full recovery. But for the neighbors who witnessed the shooting, recovery will take some time.

It was just before 1 a.m. on Aug. 8 when Zimmerman, 51, got up to let his three dogs outside before bed. Vader was the first out the door and Zimmerman was just a few steps behind when he said he heard the first of four bullets whiz past his body toward his front door.

A licensed gun owner, Zimmerman bolted to his truck and raised his gun toward the guard, whom he said was dressed in black without any visible identification.

They remained locked in a stalemate, Zimmerman holding the guard at gunpoint until deputies arrived and confiscated his weapon, he said. A forensics team struggled to find the two shell casings that didn't strike the dog, the couple said. But a subsequent investigation revealed a small divot where a bullet may have struck the ground in Zimmerman's neighbor's yard.

And the other bullet? An HCSO investigator discovered it this week, lodged in the couple's front door.

A Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokesman confirmed Friday that there is an active investigation into the incident.

Kimberly Fagan is a neighbor of the couple in the sprawling Summerfield Village subdivision. She had never met them, but on Wednesday night joined a large crowd assembled in the community club house for a homeowners association meeting. From 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., the group debated what to do next.

Critical Intervention Services has provided security at Summerfield off and on for 10 years, but their contract expires in October.

Hector Rodriguez, chief of protective services for CIS, said the security officer who shot Vader is currently on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation. But even if his actions are ultimately determined to be "justifiable force," he will not return to patrolling Summerfield, Rodriguez said.

The guard, who has 10 years experience in the U.S. Army, was ticketing a car for violating a no-parking overnight rule just before the shooting. Rodriguez said the dog came out of a side door and ran directly toward the guard.

"It was a beeline straight to him," said Rodriguez, who said the guard had nowhere to retreat.

"He's a dog lover and he was emotional after the event," Rodriguez said.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Amber Perera looks out at the courtroom audience during her sentencing hearing at the Hillsborough County Courthouse. Perera caused a fatal crash on the Selmon Expressway in Tampa in August, 10, 2017 that killed Rita and Luiz Felipak and their 8-year-old daughter Giorgia Felipak. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    Amber Perera is responsible for the 2017 crash that killed a family of three. She hopes to avoid a life sentence. The judge is still deciding.
  2. A view of the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and waterfront from over Tampa Bay.
    The news that the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation wants to change its name to include “Tampa Bay” has been met with resistance.
  3. Yesterday• Hillsborough
    Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    University police say a woman fell to her death Friday afternoon from near the top of the 8-story parking facility.
  4. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins, right, and  school board chair Tammy Shamburger speaks on newly raised concerns of a undiscovered cemetery for indigent African Americans that may be within the vicinity of King High School in Tampa on Friday. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Much is unclear at this point, say Hillsborough school officials, who promise to be open and transparent with the community,
  5. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said the man suffered upper body trauma. His death is now being investigated.
  6. Orlando Proenza Jr., 18, faces felony charges of throwing a deadly missile and battery, deputies said. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    The Pasco County driver is accused of firing a paintball gun into another vehicle, causing minor injuries.
  7. The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for the school's consolidation Thursday morning. Unlike the first plan presented in September, it promises a high level of authority to leaders on campuses in St. Petersburg, shown here, and Sarasota. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
    Legislators who were critical of the original plan say a new approach revealed Thursday is more in line with their expectations.
  8. Jane Castor Tampa Bay Times
    Mayor Jane Castor has launched a search for a resiliency officer to coordinate the city’s efforts to combat climate change.
  9. Eunive Massey, 96, remembers workers digging up graves near a home where she lived on North Florida Avenue in the early 1930s. Ground penetrating radar may have confirmed her memories, but the caskets appear to remain behind at long-forgotten Zion Cemetery. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    A Tampa woman saw graves exhumed in the 1930s, but archaeologists just found caskets on the property. How can both be right?
  10. Rescue crews work Thursday night at the scene of a fatal wrong-way crash involving on U.S. 301 near Bloomingdale Ridge Drive. The driver of the Acura sedan, Anthony L. Shaw of St. Petersburg, was driving south in the northbound lanes when the crash happened, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Anthony L. Shaw, 45, was driving an Acura sedan south in the northbound lanes before the crash, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement