Chris Comins is the most dangerous brand of hillbilly; he owns a gun but rarely gets an excuse to use it. Hunters and target shooters at least have an outlet for their rage. Comins apparently just drives around with his gun waiting for excuses.
On May 19th, he found one: what appeared to be two wolves playing with a herd of cattle.
It wasn’t his land; nor do the cows belong to him. But Comins was all too eager to help out when his business partner, landowner/developer Daryl Carter—who’s squatting on the land until urban sprawl reaches that part of Orlando—informed Comins of the wolf invasion. They contacted the cow-owner, Laura Rutherford, and informed her that her cows were being attacked by vicious wolves. (Developers in Florida sprinkle livestock on their land for tax purposes. Both Carter and Comins are in bed with Orange County Mayor, Rich Crotty).
Meanwhile, a small crowd of passersby had pulled over. They too evidently believed the animals were wolves, though none of them saw the wolves threaten the livestock in any way. Perhaps Comins thought they’d all think he was a hero; perhaps he reveled in the attention from an audience as he strutted out masculinely into the field where the wolves were playing. Brandishing his two pistols, this was to be Comins’ big moment, his noble victory against the wild. He aimed, and…
His first two shots missed the wolves completely. Witnesses assumed Comins was merely attempting to scare them off.
Then… POP! … one wolf yelps, tumbles to the ground.
At that moment, someone’s desperate whistles and screams resonated outward from the crowd. “Hey!! Hey!!”
The other wolf ran to the side of its fallen comrade.
That’s when it all becomes clear to those watching on the side of the road—the horror of what is occurring; the reason for the frantic screams.
“Oh my God, it’s two dogs!”
“That’s the owner.”
The mood changes in the crowd. People fifty feet away can see the dogs’ collars—as the shooter must have been able to, from point blank range.
One can recognize in Comins a sense of urgency as he takes aim again. One senses his hunger, his salivating over the opportunity to kill something.
The owner, Chris Butler, runs hysterically toward the scene, calling his pets’ names. His Siberian husky named Hoochie flops around on the ground, painfully dying. Hoochie’s best friend, Raley, sits there confused, not sure whether to obey his owners calls or stay with his injured pal. He tilts his head and looks curiously at the madman, oblivious to the danger. Until…
Raley drops. But both huskies are still moving. The shooter circles his kills like a predator deciding which fresh victim to devour first. Comins realizes he has but a few seconds to finish them off. He looks up at the devastated man running toward him.
“Those are my dogs! Please don’t shoot my dogs!” the man cries.
But unmoved, Comins turns back to his targets. He takes time to steady his hand, knowing he’ll only get a few more chances to kill this man’s dogs. So he inches up, within a few feet, to get a good look at both victims before he finishes them off.
Hoochie tries to get up, but something malfunctions inside and the dog falls again.
POP! POP! Two more shots two more misses.
Now the dogs are between the gunman and the stunned spectators. One of Comins shots (audible at 0:41) whizzes by the crowd.
Raley gets up and tries to flea toward his owner.
The dog falls again, but then gets up and keeps running. Life or death.
“Please stop shooting my dogs!” Butler wails.
Commins appears determined to nail the evasive mutt, so much so that he forgets about the many human bystanders in the distance, behind the wounded dog he’s shooting at. Carelessly, he points his barrel directly at the human bystanders.
Another bad shot; another stray bullet zooms past the pedestrians (audible at 0:47).
Comins walks briskly after Raley, who despite four gunshot wounds, escapes to the safety of his owner’s arms. In the distance Hoochie is barely moving.
For the second time during the exchange, the shooter appears to reach into his back pocket, as if switching weapons. Pure adrenaline runs through him. He is pissed at the dogs, and at himself for sucking at firing handguns. I wonder what he’s thinking?
Screw these dogs for not dying! Screw this man for screwing up my target practice fun! Screw this!
But he realizes he can’t keep shooting Raley with the dog so close to Butler, so Comins turns back to Hoochie. Somehow, despite having been shot three times, Hoochie has risen to his feet again. Somehow his four legs still hold him, even though one of those legs has been shattered by a bullet. Hoochie sees that Raley is safe now; Hoochie wants to be safe, too.
It’s now clear to everyone that these dogs are dogs—not wolves—and that they pose no threat to the cows. Any law that might have protected the testosterone-crazed hillbilly maniac the first eight times he pulled the trigger has seized to apply now. But Christopher Comins aims at Hoochie anyway, one last bullet. Laws are just suggestions when you’re buddies are the ones in charge with making and enforcing them!
Hoochie doesn’t move again after that. Sixty spectators are speechless, as the grief stricken Butler jumps on top of his dog’s motionless body, an effort to protect his pet from further bullets. The dog owner is devastated, paralyzed; his grief is unbearable, even to the stranger from Ireland who knows him only through her viewfinder. When a person hurts like that, the pain is contagious. His anguish becomes ours; we bleed together. We’ve tried to tell ourselves human beings are inherently good and kind and caring; but the world stops making sense to us when someone like Christopher Comins comes along reminds us otherwise. Some people truly don’t care at all. They savor the suffering of others. It hurts like hell to know people like that exist.
By now the people on the side of the road are blaring their horns, making sure Comins knows there are witnesses—just in case he was mulling over taking out Butler, too. As Comins exits the field carrying his empty handguns, he passes the cows, who for the first time act genuinely afraid. His alibi will claim he was there to protect them; how ironic that they scurry now to get as far as possible from this dangerous billy-bob.
Comins later told police he only fired because he believed the huskies to be wolves, and because they were physically attacking him. No charges were pressed initially because it was Butler’s word against Comins’. Then, a few days after the incident, a good Samaritan Irish tourist came forward with this video of the entire incident, which happens to refute the shooter’s entire story.
The unveiling of the YouTube video sparked Internet forum debates as well as an online petition drive, with thousands of strangers demanding that Comins be charged, if not with a crime than at least for Butler’s $4000 vet bills.
Police have reopened the investigation, but any sort of conviction will be tricky because the perpetrator is well-connected in Orlando.
Christopher Comins owns CustomFab, which builds special steel-pipe products for Walt Disney World and NASA. Moreover, Comins and Carter attend prayer groups with Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty (in fact, Carter and Mayor Crotty have made the news before for shady land deals). Crotty was appointed Mayor by Jeb Bush in 2001. Additionally, Comins has generously funded the Bush administration. In short, Comins is in bed with a group of folks who know how to get away with stuff. And it shows.
After all, Christopher Comins’ recent shootout with the Siberian huskies was not the first time he failed to act reasonably with his firearm. In 2005, he was charged with “Improper exhibition of a firearm” when he focused his gun’s laser site on his girlfriend’s son’s forehead. He pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and served one year probation. Some saw this slap-on-the-wrist as a slap-in-the-face to justice.
What happened to the dogs?
Raley was shot four times, including once in the back of his head. He is expected to recover, and is now back at home with his owner, Chris Butler.
Hoochie was shot four times. The first bullet entered his eye and exited out the back of his skull. That’s why he’s running in circles in the video. The final shot went through and out his chest, and appeared in the video to be fatal. Hoochie has not yet returned home from the vet. It was not clear initially if he would survive. After several weeks, he was finally stable enough to undergo surgery (to remove his eye).
Shortly after Hoochie’s right eye was removed, the vet notified Chris Butler that his dog’s fractured leg would require surgery as well.