Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘Justice for Gibson’ petition gains traction, owners of slain dog demand District Attorney hold killer responsible

The alleged killer of Gibson has a court date set for June 6, members of the Justice for Gibson group are hoping to have hundreds of signatures calling for strict punishment for the five felony counts of animal cruelty.

Gibson was shot and killed according to his owner by a neighbor who complained about the dog's barking (Port City Daily/Courtesy Facebook)
Gibson was shot and killed according to his owner by a neighbor who complained about the dog’s barking (Port City Daily/Courtesy Facebook)

WILMINGTON — Justice for Gibson — that’s what a grassroots group is hoping to get after an angry neighbor shot and subsequently killed the three-year-old dog while he was in his own backyard.

The group, which was created by Leigh West, Gibson’s owner, has started a petition along with a Facebook group calling for District Attorney Ben David to seek the maximum punishment for Alex Hollinger, the man accused of killing the dog.

On March 28, Hollinger allegedly shot Gibson multiple times with a pellet gun which mortally wounded the dog. He was charged with four felony counts of cruelty to an animal.

On April 4, Hollinger was charged with an additional count of animal cruelty after New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office deputies discovered an additional dog, Chloe, had also been shot.

“Shortly after Gibson’s passing, we decided to start the Justice for Gibson facebook page. This has allowed us a platform to be a voice for Gibson. We post daily photos and updates on the case. With the help of some wonderful people who also share a love for animals, we have drafted up a petition to District Attorney Benjamin David,” West said.

The petition reads:

“Dear District Attorney David, A beloved family pet is now dead after a neighbor reportedly shot him in his own fenced backyard. Now, his grief-stricken family wants justice. I demand that you seek punishment for the person who caused this pup’s suffering and death. Alex Christian Hollinger made a conscious decision on numerous occasions to fire a weapon into the family’s fenced yard killing Gibson and injuring Chloe. He has been charged with 5 felonies and the community is asking that he be held accountable and punished to the fullest extent of the law. This type of crime must be stopped.”

Not the first time

It’s not the first time a group has organized to push for enforcement of the state’s recently strengthened cruelty laws. In January of 2018, the Justice for Axel group formed to push for full enforcement of those laws when sentencing Christopher Anthony Simpson, a man who beat a puppy named Axel to death on Christmas of 2017. Simpson had a history of violence, including injuring a 3-month-old kitten and assaulting his pregnant girlfriend (in both cases, his girlfriend declined to cooperate with Brunswick County prosecutors and both cases were dismissed).

Ultimately, however, the District Attorney’s office made a plea deal with Simpson; in April of 2018, Simpson was sentenced to 20 days in detention plus time served, along with mandatory anger management and substance abuse counseling. The sentence was considerably shorter than the 39-month maximum. The prosecution argued that the structured sentence would allow the courts to keep tabs of Simpson and require therapy, as opposed to a straight prison sentence.

Related: Plea deal gives puppy killer 20 days, plus time served

The Justice for Axel group also pushed for strenuous sentencing for Keaton Alexander Messina Miller, who was arrested just days after Simpson. Miller was charged with being responsible for serious injuries to a Tennessee Hound named Charlie, including two broken femur bones in the dog’s hind legs. Charlie, who had been adopted from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services Unit, had to be euthanized due to the seriousness of his injuries.

Miller’s case is still pending. According to Samantha Dooies, assistant to the District Attorney, Miller’s case is on the trial calendar fo June.

Next steps

The Justice for Gibson group is asking those interested to print out their petition and have it signed physically.

“As a community, we want to see that crimes like this do not go unpunished and that people like Alex Hollinger do not get a slap on the wrist. What happened to Gibson was tragic and we just want to see justice served in this case. We are asking for help getting signatures on our petition. Anyone who is interested in helping can contact us via the Justice for Gibson facebook page,” West said.

Hollinger's next court date for the killing of Gibson is on June 6 (Port City Daily/Courtesy NC Courts)
Hollinger’s next court date for the killing of Gibson is on June 6 (Port City Daily/Courtesy NC Courts)

According to the North Carolina Judicial Branch Website, Hollinger’s next court date is not until June 6, 2019.

“It’s important that we take a stand against this sort of crime. We are simply trying to make an impact and demand harsher punishment for animal abusers,” West concluded.

The Justice for Gibson group can be found online.

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