Bond denied: Man says dog-shooting followed drinking, hunting

One of two convicted felons arrested for their alleged role in the January shooting of a family dog is claiming that it was all a mistake–- that they went drinking and hunting for deer with a vermin gun, when the shooter made a tragic target error. The claims, aired May 5 in Albemarle County General District Court, didn't win any immediate bail, and the assertion that they were deer-hunting with a .17– a rifle whose bullet typically weighs about half the weight of a .22– won only disbelief from the dog's owner.

"Why would you go hunting for deer with a .17, knowing you're not going to be able to bring something down?" asks Mattie's owner, Ed Scarborough. He says that when he and his wife took the dog's body to the veterinarian after the incident to retrieve the bullet, the vet told them it hadn't hit any major organs.

"She bled to death over some period of time," says Scarborough, noting that the allegedly errant hunters could have alerted the family of the accident– if that's what it was.

"If they'd come up to the door and said, 'We accidentally shot your dog,'" he says, "we could have possibly saved her. I don't believe a damn thing they're saying, other than the fact they shot the dog."

Twenty-six year old Justin Tyler Riggs was denied bond after his companion that night, 21-year-old Brian Tichner, testified against him, claiming Riggs was the triggerman and that neither had known it was a dog they'd seen– until they heard a yelp. They'd been hunting deer in the residential neighborhood, Tichner said.

Tichner's attorney, David Heilberg, says his client is remorseful.

"He wrote a letter of apology to the victims," says Heilberg, adding that the gesture was made before he'd obtained legal counsel. Scarborough says the family is aware of the letter, but never received it.

Details of the night in question came out during the Thursday hearing, which was Riggs' preliminary. According to a courtroom observer, Tichner testified that what ended with the death of Mattie began as a night out for the duo, along with Mitchell Tichner, Tichner's father.

Riggs and the elder Tichner were drinking, Tichner testified, and, at some point, decided to go deer hunting even though it was past season. As Mitchell Tichner drove through the Fray's Grant neighborhood, Tichner testified, Riggs, sitting in the front passenger seat, fired Mitchell Tichner's gun at something.

Tichner, who testified that he'd told his friend not to fire the gun, says the group only realized what Riggs had shot when they heard the dog cry out.

Riggs, who is charged with possession of a firearm as a violent felon, cruelty to animals, and illegal hunting, will remain behind bars at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail. He goes before a grand jury for indictment on June 6 in Albemarle County Circuit Court. His attorney, William Tanner, says his client denies shooting the dog.

Tichner, who is charged only with possession of a firearm as a violent felon, will face his own preliminary hearing on Thursday, May 12. According to records and courtroom testimony, both men face as many as 12 years of their suspended sentences for violating probation in addition to the minimum sentence of five years for possessing a firearm as a felon. Riggs could face one to five additional years for animal cruelty.

As for Mattie's family Ed Scarborough says they're trying to move past the incident that shook not only the human members but the surviving dog, Max, who dropped from 65 to 45 pounds after his littermate's death. "He just stopped eating," says Scarborough, who reports the arrival of a new female husky, three-month-old "Mattie 2," has restored Max to health.

Scarborough says he's pleased with the arrests but has sympathy for the families of Tichner and, especially, Riggs, who has three-month-old twins and whose wife pleaded the court for his release.

"It's unbelievable to go out and do something that stupid that would jeopardize the longevity of your family and the care of your newborn children," says Scarborough. "It's astonishing to me."

The $25,000 reward still stands, and Scarborough says if no one has come forward with a valid claim at the time of a conviction, it will be donated to a local charity serving animals.




Absolutely ludicrous! this thugs arent hunters and are in fact slobs! They should be tarred and feathered..........and worse. My personal condolences to the poor owners of that poor dog! Please dont call bums like these "hunters" is trampling the good names of the decent majority of hunters who arent ANYTHING like them. We Love our dogs and despise that type of inhumane treatment!!!

if it were my dog and the judge let them loose,i would return the favor to the pair.

Only in Charlottesville would people put up a $25,000 reward for a dead dog.

Having zero interest taking sides some theme about being innocent until proven guilty seems to have a tone and adds spice to my reading of this article.

The dog isn't the issue. Who cares about the dog? I wish they had shot my wife's dog. I am jealous of the dog's owners. They are toast because they are convicted felons with a gun. That makes it federal. They should have used a bow and arrow, like the Dukes of Hazzard used to do.

You most certainly can bring down a deer with a .17 HMR Its about shot placement. It doesn't sound like they took that into consideration. Id rather use a .22 mag over my .308 for anything including self defense, but I digress...

I hope they get the max sentence allowed by law these low life are true scums of the earth!

First, my sympathies to this poor family who lost their dog in such a horrible fashion.

Second, let's talk about how The Hook advertised this story on Twitter for a moment. This is the content of the tweet that popped up on my Twitter feed yesterday:

Member of accused dog-shooting duo says they was jes doin' a little drinkin' and huntin' with papa and a varmint gun:
You can find it here:

First of all, is that a direct quote from someone? Where are the quotation marks? Was that paraphrased? Or was that the journalist's judgement on these two people?

There are plenty of people in the diverse community who may lack education, but they are loving, hard working, helpful and kind. I resent The Hook's effort to cast aspersion on an entire group of people who may lack some education by clearly lumping them in with these three mean,
damaged men. By using the tweeted statement (again - was that even SAID by anyone?) the inference is that of COURSE the criminals speak in this way - that it is no surprise that the uneducated among us are the dog killers.

I would expect a journalist to keep his bias to himself as best he can instead of actually working at such a derogatory advertisement and publicly announcing his prejudices.

Really, The Hook? Is this the best you can do? That was simply shameful.

There's a common theme in recent criminal cases involving violent felons possessing guns, and it's clear something needs done regarding penalties for these people. Surely life without parole for a violent felon caught with a gun is the least that should be done, but swift death would be a sure, quick, and economical method to reduce drain on public resources and ensure no recidivism. As seen with the recent Greene County triple homicide, a dangerous and impulsive person with no redeeming qualities was repeatedly foisted off on the community. Why is it that private voyeurs who download "kiddie porn" images of an anonymous nature to their computers can be so readily imprisoned for decades while vicious denizens of the thug subculture serve minimal sentences and are released when anyone familiar with them knows they are murders waiting to happen.

So Courteney--was the tweet yours? Is that cool with you?

These two belong in prison, period.

Hawes tweets for the Hook. He's sometimes politically incorrect.

Unfortunately, I have heard that when the police are called re trespassers shooting/"hunting" in a suburban subdivision, they really don't give a damn. This time it was a dog. Next time it might be a child. I recall reading that the morons who set up a makeshift target range in Keswick, and wound up shooting a Glenmore woman a few hundred feet away, got off scot free. I'm a gun owner myself, but when you go trespassing and shooting on property that isn't yours (or fire irresponsibly on your own property so you hit people in the neighborhood) the law should come down on hard on you. I wish cops would pay as much attention to these cases as they do to speeders.

A deer certainly can and has been taken down with .17. That is a fact, not fiction. Of course I believe any moving target would have worked for these guys. Its liike going to the carnival and shooting targets...except its free.

I can not believe he was denied bond for shooting a dog. I love animals and do own them. However, I can not believe he was denied bond but yet the child predators just recently caught were given bond! This AMAZES me that we would hold someone who shot a dog but not GROWN MEN who search out girls on the internet. What is this world coming to?

really?, he was denied bond because he's a convicted violent felon who was charged with a gun crime.

Mr/Mrs/Miss Really, I'm sure the denial of bond was based on being a convicted felon in the possession of a firearm. What would the world come to if we couldn't jail convicted felons without bond if they choose to possess firearms and roam the streets?

And what about the children? Is is OK to let these predators back on the street to strike again? I guess people think more highly of a child predator than a convicted felon that did not prey on children?

Consider this, really?--maybe the alleged child predators AND the convicted felon who thinks it's a good idea to shoot out the window at something moving in the distance as he rides past someone's residence and kills someone's pet should BOTH be locked up. But just because they maybe should have kept the alleged child predator locked up doesn't mean they should release other people who also should be locked up.

Unless the law has changed, it is illegal to hunt deer in Virginia with a rifle of less than .23 caliber.
Since there are no .23 calibers, the minimum then is a .24 caliber or 6mm, like the .243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, or .240 Weatherby Magnum.
Maybe they should dump these clowns with .17 caliber peashooter somewhere in Africa where there are lots of man-eating lions and irritated Cape buffalo!