Home Augusta County man who killed PTSD veteran’s service dog gets six months in jail
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Augusta County man who killed PTSD veteran’s service dog gets six months in jail

buddy
Buddy Bear at his Augusta County home (submitted)

The criminal case against an Augusta County man who shot and killed an Army veteran’s service dog came to an end Wednesday morning as the judge sentenced Louis Edward Davis Jr. to an active sentence of six months of incarceration.

Augusta County Circuit Court Judge Shannon Sherrill sentenced Davis to two years, with 18 months of the sentence suspended. Davis will also get credit for time served. He served approximately one week in jail after his bond was denied in General District Court but later was granted on appeal in Circuit Court.

Court proceedings

The criminal case of the Commonwealth v. Louis Edward Davis Jr. centered around the murder of a service dog named Buddy Bear, or Bear for short, that was shot and killed by Davis on Sept. 15, 2023.

Joeseph and Edith Sande had moved from Arizona to the Orchard Hill subdivision in Augusta County approximately two weeks before the tragic incident. The Sandes had never met Davis before he shot and killed their service dog, a five-year-old husky.

During Circuit Court proceedings this morning, Joeseph Sande testified that he suffers from PTSD, anxiety, depression and nerve damage to his hands due to his military service. Joeseph said that he spent two years training Bear to be his service dog, and Bear helped to remind him to take his medicine, monitored his cortisol levels and helped him sleep through the night. Joeseph served nine years in the Army National Guard and completed three deployments, including two to combat zones.

“When Davis ruthlessly killed Bear, he destroyed me and my family,” Joeseph said in a written victim statement provided to the court. He said that he “almost gave up on life” due to the incident and feeling trapped and not safe in his own home because of his neighbor’s actions.

Joeseph said in the statement that he attended training at Fort Lee in 2015 and fell in love with Virginia.

“I never thought that moving to the place that I dreamed to live would lead to the death of my best friend,” he wrote. “I feel guilty, even though I know it’s not my fault, for Bear’s death because I was the one who moved my family here from Arizona …”

Edith Sande said in court that she has tried to be strong for her husband. She said that she lost her job in the aftermath of the shooting and has stayed home since due to the fragile state of their mental health. She said her husband’s mental health has worsened since the death of Bear and that they have made multiple calls to the Veterans Crisis Hotline since the incident.

Davis’ sister and daughter testified that Davis was not violent and has owned cats and dogs as a child and adult. They described Davis as a homebody who was close with his family. They said that Davis also had depression stemming from the death of his son and had numerous health issues including COPD, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Sentencing guidelines for the felony animal cruelty charge range from one to five years in prison and a fine up to $2,500.

Augusta County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kyle Powers said in his closing statement that Davis was reckless, calculated and had willful intent to harm the husky. He also argued that other cars and houses were nearby, and the reckless action could have had even more severe consequences. The Commonwealth requested a five-year sentence, with four years suspended.

Defense Attorney Scott Hansen said in his closing statement that the death was “accidental” and he was “sorry for the hell” that the Sandes have gone through. He also said that he felt the Sandes were out for vengeance and retribution and wanted to make Davis hurt because they hurt. He argued that Davis was a “broken man” much like Joeseph Sande. Hansen requested for any sentence imposed to be suspended in full.

Judge Sherrill said that the argument that the shooting was accidental “doesn’t add up.” The judge said the defense argument that Davis shot his .44 Magnum revolver in the direction of the dog to scare it away and not to harm it was “borderline implausible.”

The judge said as a dog owner, he also understands that a dog is often viewed as a family member.

Before the sentencing, Davis read a short statement where he said he was “deeply sorry” for the death of Bear. He said he takes full responsibility for his actions. He also apologized to the Sandes for their pain.

Time for healing

buddy bear
Joeseph and Edith Sande, with Bear and their husky Hazel (submitted)

After the sentencing, the Sandes told AFP that they are relieved that the criminal case has come to an end. They feel that the community as a whole will benefit from seeing that you cannot harm a pet without consequences.

“I feel like this is good for the Commonwealth of Virginia to enact justice for the community as a whole,” Joeseph said.

“Due to this result, people in the community can see what happens when people decide to hurt animals or service animals,” Edith said. “It will bring light to what can happen when people make bad decisions.”

Both said that they feel Bear should be remembered as a hero as his death likely will prevent Davis from hurting other neighborhood pets. They also believe that when the Commonwealth pursues cases such as this, it serves as a warning to the entire community that actions that hurt or kill pets will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“I think the neighborhood will definitely be safer with him (Davis) not being able to own firearms,” Joeseph said.

Anyone convicted of a felony in Virginia loses the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, become a notary public and carry a firearm.

The Sandes said after the sentencing hearing that they were eager to get home to continue the healing process and to spend time with their three huskies – Hazel, Neeko and Miska.

Edith said she plans to stay home for the foreseeable future until Miska can be trained to help Joeseph.

“My plan is to definitely go back to teaching and continue that career,” Edith said. “But right now, we’re just letting ourselves heal completely.”

Fine print

In Virginia, inmates must serve 85 percent of their sentence. The remaining 15 percent of the sentence can be waived by the Department of Corrections due to other factors including good behavior.

Davis pleaded no contest on Feb. 14 to one felony count of animal cruelty.

In addition to Davis’ prison sentence, he will have supervised probation for one year following his release. He is subject to mental health and substance abuse testing during the probation period and may not have any contact with the Sandes or any member of their household.

Davis was also ordered to pay court costs and $297.80 in restitution for the veterinarian bill for Bear after the shooting.

Davis has 30 days to note an appeal if he chooses to seek one. The appeal was not requested at today’s hearing.

Joeseph Sande with Bear
Joeseph Sande with Bear (submitted)

Complete coverage

Follow the story online at #justiceforbuddybear or read AFP archives here.

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If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org
For local mental health resources, visit AFP’s Project Mental Health page.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.

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