A 50-year-old Ellicott City man received probation before judgment and 30 days of home detention Thursday for pointing his shotgun at a man whose boxer dog got loose and attacked his white bichon frise in March.
The experience deeply affected both men. William M. Snyder's friends came out in force for the sentencing, as at least 16 people spent the day waiting for his sentencing after an Aug. 17 guilty plea. Neighbors called him a "great guy" who was always willing to lend a hand and had never showed rage over the past few decades.
"I just find this whole thing unbelievable," former co-worker Charles Baldwin told Howard County Circuit Judge Richard S. Bernhardt.
Snyder, who lives in the 4000 block of Spring Meadow Drive in Dunloggin, is a senior engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in North Laurel.
Zachary D. Lockett, 22, the victim, said after the emotional sentencing hearing that he was visiting a friend who lived near Snyder that day and never intended for his unleashed dog to get out of his vehicle, but the dog jumped out when he opened the door and ran across the street to jump on Snyder's small white dog.
Court papers filed by county police after the March 24 incident said Snyder told Lockett's friend, Mitchell Koehler, who had run over to bring a leash for the boxer, "get out of the way, Mitch, I'm going to shoot the dog." Police Officer John G. Simcox wrote that Lockett, who is 6 feet 1 inch and 230 pounds, had tears in his eyes and said he had feared Snyder was going to shoot him and his dog.
Snyder's lawyer, James S. Hanson, asked for a sentence that would not cost Snyder his security clearance, and thus his cybersecurity job. He cited the wave of support for the man, who is also the father of a 6-year-old, and said the gun was not loaded.
Prosecutor Colleen McGuinn asked for a three-year prison term, with all but 30 days suspended, to punish Snyder for his minute of rage after the attack. After securing his dog in his house, he emerged with an antique shotgun and pointed it for 10 seconds at Lockett, who was sprawled on Snyder's front lawn, his arms and legs wrapped around his own struggling pet.
Bernhardt called it "a significant event we just can't turn a blind eye to," which required some kind of detention, but he agreed to Hanson's request for probation before judgment and added 18 months' probation and required an anger management course.
Lockett — who cried openly at one point after Bernhardt mentioned the Anne Arundel dog shot to death recently in a dog park by an off-duty federal police officer — submitted a victim impact statement that said he was still upset by the incident and was seeking counseling. He apologized to Snyder at the time and gave him contact information for his dog's medical expenses.
"For whatever reason," Bernhardt said," things involving pets, usually dogs, evoke a tremendous response." Snyder's neighbors said he treated both of his bichon frises like members of his family. Snyder apologized to Bernhardt.