Dog kills Kansas man Joseph Smith after stepping on rifle, sheriff says


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A dog stepped on a loaded rifle, fatally shooting a passenger in his owner’s car during a hunting trip in Geuda Springs, Kan., sheriff’s deputies said.

Joseph Austin Smith, 30, of Wichita was sitting in the front passenger seat of a pickup truck when he was shot in the back, the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

“The back seat contained hunting gear and a rifle,” the statement said. “A canine belonging to the owner of the pickup stepped on the rifle causing the weapon to discharge. The fired round struck the passenger who died of his injuries on scene.”

The sheriff’s office added that it considers the shooting an accident and has closed the case.

Responders were dispatched to the scene shortly before 9:50 a.m. Saturday after receiving a 911 call, the sheriff’s office said. The authorities did not say who placed the 911 call or disclose the name of the person who owns the dog or vehicle. It was not immediately clear what happened to the dog.

A GoFundMe page created by a group of people identified as Smith’s colleagues at Browns Plumbing Services in Wichita remembered him to be “kind, funny, smart, and very loving.” The campaign has raised more than $10,000 as of Wednesday morning. GoFundMe confirmed the validity of the fundraising page. Browns Plumbing Services did not immediately respond to a Washington Post request Wednesday morning for comment.

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Saturday’s shooting is not the first involving a dog and a loaded weapon.

Many people across the United States have been injured or fatally shot by canines discharging firearms in recent years, intensifying calls for better gun control and safety measures.

Although federal data indicates that the vast majority of gun deaths in the United States are suicides or homicides, the latest data shows that more than 500 people were killed unintentionally with guns in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. Firearm purchases rose to record levels in the United States in the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, with more than 43 million guns estimated to have been purchased in that period, The Washington Post reported in July.

In 2004, a shepherd-mix puppy in Florida discharged a gun, striking a man in the wrist, NBC News reported. At the time of the shooting, Jerry Allen Bradford had been preparing to shoot seven puppies because he was unable to find them a home, NBC News reported, citing the local sheriff’s office.

In 2015, a Labrador retriever named Trigger accidentally shot a woman in the foot in Indiana, the Guardian reported. The woman’s loaded shotgun had been left on the ground with the safety off, causing her to be shot at close range and requiring medical treatment to her foot and toes.

“When you have a country with as many people, guns and dogs as we do, this type of thing is going to happen from time to time,” an analysis in The Post said that year.

In 2018, a pit bull-Labrador named Balew accidentally shot his owner when the pair were playing inside a house in Iowa. The dog’s owner, Richard Remme, told officials he was sitting on the sofa when he pushed the dog off his lap. Balew jumped up, disabling the safety on the gun in his holster and pressing the trigger.

Remme, who was injured in the leg, said that Balew — whom his owner described as “a big wuss” — cried after the shooting because he thought he did something wrong, the Guardian reported.

A hunting trip ended in bloodshed in New Mexico in 2018 when a 120-pound Rottweiler mix named Charlie caught a paw in the trigger of a gun while sitting in the back of his owner’s vehicle. Tex Harold Gilligan told ABC News that he was driving at the time he was shot and initially thought he had been hit by a sniper in the desert.

Gilligan was hospitalized with lung damage and broken bones but later defended his furry friend. “He didn’t mean to do it. He’s a good dog,” he said.

Most reports of dogs injuring humans with firearms have been documented in the United States, but such incidents also have occurred in other countries.

In November, a 32-year-old Turkish man from the city of Samsun was shot dead by a dog during a hunting trip. Ozgur Gevrekogulu was packing equipment into his vehicle when his dog stepped on the trigger of a shotgun, discharging a blast into the man’s abdomen, the Middle East Eye reported, citing local media.

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