Dog Poo Confrontation: Is Drawing a Gun Legal?

Photo by Gordon Cooper
Photo by Gordon Cooper

There are some situations that make you proud to be a gun owner — such as hearing about someone who saved a family member from attackers, or stopped a potential bank robbery. However, there are other instances that make you shake your head. This is one of those head-shakers:

According to media reports, Michael Lee Anderson, 67, was walking his dog in the park, where it proceeded to poop (as dogs tend to do). However, Anderson did not pick it up, and started to leave the park. Kyle Greene, 32, bagged the feces and threw it into the back of Anderson’s truck before he drove away. Anderson stopped the vehicle and got out, the two began to have a heated argument, and Anderson pointed his gun at Greene.

The legal question is: Had this occurred in Texas, would Anderson’s actions be justified or a crime?

Emily Taylor, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington and an independent program attorney with Texas Law Shield, offered the following advice.

At first glance, this story definitely seems like a bad idea, but it does highlight some very interesting points in Texas law. The first thing to note is that Texas considers pointing a gun at someone, with the intent to cause apprehension that you will use it if necessary, to be force, but not deadly force. Therefore, all we really have to analyze is whether or not Anderson would be justified in using force!

There are only two actions by Greene in this whole encounter; throwing the poop into the bed of the truck, and arguing with Anderson. So we would have to try to find justification from one of these two actions.

When Greene threw the doo, he could have arguably been committing the crime of criminal mischief. One way criminal mischief can occur is when a person intentionally or knowingly tampers with the tangible property of someone else, and causes pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner. Throwing poop into the bed of a car is tampering with property, and it could be substantially inconvenient to have to clean that poop out.

While you are justified in using force (but not deadly force) to prevent or terminate ongoing criminal mischief in the daytime, the problem here is that the mischief was already over. Greene had already thrown the feces, the mischief was complete; therefore, at the time Anderson got out and pointed the gun, he could not argue he did so to terminate criminal mischief.

The only other event that took place was the argument between Greene and Anderson. Now, unfortunately, the news article doesn’t give a lot of details about the argument. Greene is, however, half the age of Anderson, so it is very possible that Greene could present a threat to Anderson in terms of pure physiology.

However, unless threats were made, or Greene moved toward Anderson in such a way as to threaten him, it would be extremely hard to argue that Anderson was actually afraid of unlawful force. Instead, it looks like Anderson just got angry during an argument, and drew his gun! This would be an illegal act because verbal provocation alone isn’t enough to justify force!

So, ultimately, it appears that, barring circumstances where Greene was approaching Anderson and threatening to hurt him, Anderson would not be justified.

The moral of the story? Pick up after your dog!