The owner of a military dog known as Major Mike insisted the four-legged war hero did not deserve to be shot by a cyclist who claimed he fired in self defense.
Major Mike, a Belgian Malinois, was reportedly on the loose when he came upon a cyclist and went on the attack. The cyclist told police he was forced to shoot at the dog, hitting him in the backside.
But Major Mike's owner, Army Ranger Matt Bessler, didn't buy the story.
“I feel that he intentionally shot my dog because he wanted to shoot a dog,” Bessler, who served nine tours of combat in Iraq, said, tearing up as he spoke about his brave companion.
“Remembering how much he and I have done together. He's taken away my fellow brother veteran. If Mike was attacking him, he would have shot him straight on in the face, that's not consistent with the attack,” Bessler said.
According to the sheriff's report, the cyclist, who did not suffer any injuries, told them he was “genuinely in fear of his life” and “the dog was definitely in full attack mode and not backing down.”
The man was not cited for the shooting.
Bessler, who specialized in intelligence gathering, has launched his own investigation, combing through the sheriff's reports and photos of evidence. He's determined to clear Major Mike's name.
“Mike was a brave service animal, but he is not an attack dog,” he said.
His owner wept as Major Mike was laid to rest after being killed outside his home in Powell, Wyoming.
“His ability to do above and beyond what any humans could do made his a hero because of the fact that he had saved a life. He was a hero,” Bessler said.
The dog survived two tours of duty in a war zone, and was credited with sniffing out thousands of pounds of explosives.
At the dog's funeral, 100 veterans from across the state came to pay respects to Major Mike as a dog of war who served his nation, only to be killed on American soil.