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Dog Owner in Ault, Colorado Shot and Killed in Clash Over Barking Dog, Shooter Goes Free

Neighbor who complained of barking held in Ault man's slaying

Denver Post Northern Colorado Bureau - Written by Coleman Cornelius - November 2, 2004

AULT - Richard Hammock loved his two dogs and cat so much that every night he fell asleep cuddled up with them.

He and Mojo, a lively miniature pinscher, had a game in which they ran around a backyard tree with Mojo yipping at what the family called "his invisible squirrel," a game that delighted both Hammock and his dog.

On Sunday evening, Mojo's barking became the center of a deadly dispute between neighbors. The dispute left Hammock, 48, dead from a 12-gauge shotgun blast to the chest and his neighbor Eric Griffin, 33, in the Weld County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder, Ault Police Chief Tracey McCoy said Monday.

"It was so unnecessary," Hammock's wife, Diane, said as she sobbed and was embraced by distraught family members and friends in her living room on Monday. "Why? I just don't understand."

It is the first homicide in memory in Ault, a burg of 1,435 residents that is surrounded by northern Colorado farm fields and is referred to on town signs as "A Unique Little Town."

"A guy blown away over this is incredible," said McCoy, whose department had never received a dog complaint from Griffin.

Dogs often are the source of neighborhood discord, but "you don't usually lose lives over it," the police chief said.

Survivors said Griffin complained about the Hammocks' dogs only once - to the couple's daughter while they were in Hawaii celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in September.

"If you don't do something about the barking, I'm going to do something to fix it," Felicia Christopherson said Griffin told her. Christopherson said she was stunned because she didn't think the dogs were a problem.

Griffin, a jeweler who lives in a converted library on Ault's main street, shot and seriously wounded Mojo with a pellet gun on Sunday afternoon because he was angry about the dog's barking, McCoy said.

Hammock, a traffic coordinator at the Wal-Mart distribution center in Loveland, did not immediately realize the dog had been shot. Mojo bolted yelping through the couple's dog door and collapsed on the kitchen floor as Diane Hammock stood on a ladder painting the room, she said.

The Hammocks rushed Mojo to a veterinary clinic, where an X- ray revealed that the dog's sudden pain and breathing trouble came from a pellet that had pierced his lungs and lodged in his side, Diane Hammock said. The couple left Mojo at the vet clinic, unsure whether he would live.

When the Hammocks returned home about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Richard told Diane, "Honey, call the Police Department so we can make a report" about Mojo getting shot, she recalled. He was going out to park the car, he told her.

Instead, Hammock grabbed a 2- by-2 and, wielding the piece of lumber, went next door to confront Griffin about the dog's wound, McCoy said.

Griffin came to the door with a shotgun, police said. The men apparently quarreled through the door - an old library door with multiple glass panes - Griffin on one side with his gun and Hammock on the other with his 3-foot stick.

It appears that Griffin fired at Hammock once through the door, McCoy said. The shotgun blast hit Hammock in the chest from no more than a few feet away, the police chief said.

Diane Hammock said she heard a loud noise that sounded like shattering glass. Her 10-year-old granddaughter heard it, too, and asked, "What was that?" Diane Hammock went to investigate and found her husband lying on the neighbor's stoop in a pool of blood, with emergency vehicles already arriving from nearby stations.

"He loved animals so much. Our pets were just like our kids," Hammock said of her husband. "I just want people to know he was a good person. He didn't deserve this."

DA says Make My Day Law protects man who shot, killed neighbor in barking dog dispute

9NEWS Northern Reporter - Written by: Roger Wolfe - November 13, 2004

AULT - A Weld County man accused of killing his neighbor last week in a squabble over a barking dog will not be prosecuted. The district attorney says the shooting was justified under Colorado¹s Make My Day Law.

Richard Hammock, 48, died Nov. 2 from a shotgun wound. His dog had been shot with a pellet gun and he went to his neighbor¹s house to confront him about the incident. Hammock was carrying a three-foot club when he went to 33-year-old Eric Griffin¹s home. The district attorney says Hammock broke out the glass on Griffin¹s front door and then Griffin shot him.

Griffin was arrested for the shooting, but district attorney Al Dominguez says he can't prosecute him because of the court's interpretation of the Make My Day Law. He says he believes it was a mistake for the state Legislature to pass the law.

The law recognizes that citizens have the right to expect absolute safety within their homes. The occupant is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly force, against another person who makes an uninvited entry into the home and either has or might commit a crime there.

This page is part of the Violence in the News,
which is a component of the Barking Dog News and