By RICK A. RICHARDS
LA PORTE, Ind. — When farmer Glen Minich heard gunshots just after 9:30 p.m. Nov. 28, he didn’t know for sure what was going on, but he had a sinking feeling someone had just shot some of his dairy cows.
He went outside and stood on his front porch and looked in the direction of the shot – and then, about an eighth of a mile down his lane, he heard another shot. “I knew then, someone had shot one of my cows,” said Minich.
He drove to the end of the lane just in time to see a Jeep driving away. He wrote down the license number and within two hours, LaPorte County sheriff’s deputies had arrested two boys, 17 and 14, both students at South Central High School in Union Mills.
Major John Boyd, spokesman for the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department, said the shooting “was an absolute shame. I have animals on my property, and you do become attached to them.” He said when police arrived at Minich’s home in the 5100 block of County Road 425 South, they found three dairy cattle dead, one of them pregnant. Boyd said all were discovered within about 15 feet of the roadway. Police declined to say what kind of weapon was used.
The two teens have been charged with nine Class D felonies – three each of killing a vertebrate animal, three counts of criminal recklessness and three counts of criminal mischief. The boys, whose identities have not been released because they are juveniles, are being housed in the La Porte County Juvenile Services Center.
Lead investigator Detective Andy Hynek of the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department said sentencing guidelines call for 1-3 years in jail for each count, for a possible maximum sentence of 27 years.
“I doubt they will get that because, in all likelihood, they’ll be sentenced to serve the counts concurrently,” said Hynek. Ultimately, the sentence will be decided in LaPorte County Juvenile Court after the first of the year.
“From what we’ve learned, the two boys were by themselves and that peer pressure was used by the older boy to influence the younger one,” said Hynek. “The younger kid’s parents are devastated by this. They were sick to their stomach over what happened. The parents of the older boy were upset, but not like the other parents.”
While police were able to make a quick arrest in the incident because of Minich’s quick action in jotting down the license number, Hynek doesn’t recommend farmers – or anyone else for that matter – confront people on their property, especially when they have a gun.
“We suggest they contact law enforcement, particularly when you know they have a weapon,” he said.
Slightly more than 12 hours after the shootings, Minich was back at work on his farm, which has 600 head of cattle. He said 500 are kept in a pasture away from the open lot where the three Holsteins were shot. In that field, about 100 head of younger cows are kept.
“I don’t know if this is something I’ve thought a lot about, but there is always a possibility of something like this happening,” said Minich, adding he doesn’t plan to change the way he operates his farm because of the shootings. “I think this is pretty much an isolated incident.”
While one of the teens told police he and his friend were hunting coyotes, Minich didn’t sound so sure about that. “There is a big difference between a coyote, which is a nuisance, and a cow,” he said.
He declined to say what kind of punishment he would like the boys to receive. “That’s not my area of expertise. I do hope that whatever happens turns them in another direction. I hope they learn from this.”
One thing Minich does want is full restitution for the dead cows. He placed a $1,500 value on each of the animals, a number Boyd described as low because it doesn’t take into account the lost milk production over the life of the cow and the number of potential births.
“We have decided that whatever restitution we get will be donated to a cause to help the situation,” said Minich. “We haven’t decided whether it will be to an animal abuse prevention group or a juvenile intervention organization, but we know we want to do something to address the concern we have over keeping something like this from happening again.”