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Man Who Shot And Killed Pet Tortoise Faces Charge Of Criminal Mischief

Merlin was shot and killed by a man who claimed to think he was dangerous.

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The man who shot and killed Merlin, a 65-pound, 16-year-old pet sulcata tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata) that wandered onto his Zionsville, Indiana farm, is facing a charge of criminal mischief, for “recklessly, knowingly or intentionally” destroying property that belonged to Tasha Chapel (Merlin's owner) without her consent.

The Indiana Board of Animal Health, Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Humane Law Enforcement Division and Boone County Prosecutor’s Office assisted in the investigation into the killing of the tortoise.


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Brandt Lawson shot and killed Merlin August 31, 2017 and then notified Chapel that he thought the tortoise was a snapping turtle and might bite someone, according to Fox 59. While no charges were filed at the time of the shooting, Lawson is now facing the criminal mischief charge, a Class B misdemeanor in the state of Indiana.

A statement from Lawson’s attorney expressed regret for what he had done.

"He expressed his sincere sorrow to the family and continues to indicate a desire to make amends,” the statement read. “The overwhelming negative response on social media with distorted facts and speculation has put a barrier between the man and the pet’s owner with attempts to make amends nearly impossible."

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However, on the Justice For Merlin Facebook page, there is a different account of what others say had happened. The account, which you can read here, talks about a taxidermist as well as a selfie with the dead reptile. 

It appears now that the law will sort this incident out. 

“This is an unfortunate circumstance with Merlin, because he is not considered a domestic animal by state law. When we found out what occurred we immediately began an investigation with our animal control liaison,” Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen stated in a press release. “This is just another example of why we have been working so hard for the last year on getting the proper county animal control ordinance in place as well as the funding for a full time animal control officer.”

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Rest In Peace Merlin. Hopefully there will be some sort of justice for your loved ones.