This story also has a picture of the lab.
Shooting of dog-walker called justified
Grant Kuenzli (shown with his Labrador retriever, Maggie) was killed May
11 on a forest trail north of Payson.
Payson-area trail death deemed self-defense
The Arizona Republic
May. 22, 2004 12:00 AM
It was a common Arizona hiking confrontation: big, unleashed dogs on a
trail, turning a peaceful walk in the woods into a frightening ordeal of
snarling teeth and vicious barking.
Usually it is settled with words, sometimes angry. This time it turned
Coconino County sheriff's detectives say the shooting of 43-year-old Grant
Kuenzli was a justifiable homicide. But the victim's friends say he was a
peaceful man who had volunteered to take a couple of dogs from an animal
shelter out for exercise and didn't deserve to die.
The encounter occurred 11 days ago near Payson, when Kuenzli was hiking
through the woods on the Pine Canyon Trail with his dog, a yellow Labrador
retriever named Maggie, and two other dogs, a chow and a German shepherd
The dogs, which were not on leashes, ran ahead and apparently startled
Harold Fish, a 57-year-old retiree from Phoenix, according to sheriff's
Detective Scott Feagan.
Fish, who was carrying a 10mm semiautomatic pistol in a holster, felt
threatened, Feagan said, and fired a warning shot into the ground near the
dogs and then three shots at Kuenzli, all of which hit him in the chest.
"Our investigation leads us to believe this is a situation of
self-defense," Feagan said. "(Fish) was under attack."
Fish could not be reached for comment. There were no other witnesses.
Payson retiree John McCauley, 73, who befriended Kuenzli at Payson's dog
park, described him as "a very gentle person" who loved dogs and the
McCauley and others in Payson who knew Kuenzli said it does not add up
that he and his dogs would have been a threat to another hiker.
Feagan related Fish's account of the shooting:
Kuenzli's barking dogs charged at Fish, who yelled at Kuenzli to call them
off. Fish fired a warning shot when the lead dog, the chow, was within 6
feet of him.
Fish looked up and saw Kuenzli running down the hill, fists clenched, and
yelling at him. He warned him to stop. Kuenzli charged forward. Fish shot
him three times.
Fish then hiked out and flagged down a passer-by to alert the Sheriff's
Department. Kuenzli was dead when the paramedics arrive.
Fish had no wounds from the dogs.
Both Kuenzli and Fish were each about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed
close to 200 pounds.
Feagan said the chow that charged Fish has a documented history of
That is disputed by Larry Stubbs, Payson Humane Society president.
Kuenzli, who volunteered at the Payson shelter, had taken the chow and
shepherd out for a hike with Maggie, a therapy dog that he took to senior
Stubbs, a retired Phoenix police officer, said the shelter would have
euthanized either dog if it was vicious.
He said the Sheriff's Department had not contacted him.
McCauley said he believes that Kuenzli probably yelled at Fish not to kill
"I don't think the guy who shot him was doing anything malicious,"
"I just think he overreacted."
William Boa, a Mesa police volunteer for 14 years and a gun instructor,
said a dog could be considered a lethal weapon.
"The question is: Are you in fear of your life and did you take a
reasonable action?" said Boa, who teaches a concealed-weapons permit
Fish had a permit but was carrying his pistol openly, which is legal in
A warning shot might indicate that Fish had time to flee, Boa said.
"Personally, I would have shot the dog first," he said.
Although detectives say the shooting appears to have been justified, they
do intend to present the case to a Coconino County grand jury.
It will be several weeks before any results are known.
McCauley said he is concerned that Kuenzli will be portrayed to a grand
jury as homeless and a "loose cannon."
Kuenzli was living in the woods near Payson, but he showered and shaved
every day and was well-adjusted, McCauley said.
He worked as a fire inspector for the Gilbert Fire Department from July
1998 to April 1999.
Kuenzli also had a Web site listing himself as a pet photographer and
appeared on an Internet listing of Arizonans for Howard Dean.
"He had plenty of money, a bank account and a $1,000 check on him when he
was killed," McCauley said.
Stubbs, of the Payson Humane Society, said people in Payson are wondering
how the shooting could have happened.
"He was such mild-mannered guy, they can't understand it," Stubbs said.