Lakeland puppy gunned down in front of owner

Posted at 4:13 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-15 21:12:04-05

A 3-month-old puppy was shot dead in front of her owner in Polk County and now the dog's owner and the shooter are at odds.

Surveillance cameras caught it all on video.

Christopher Crifasi, who owned the puppy, is struggling to explain the dog's death to his 4-year-old daughter.

"I said, 'She went to puppy heaven' and she says,"Daddy, why'd he shoot my doggie? Why'd he shoot my doggie?'" Crifasi said.

Lilly, the black German Shepherd, died in the middle of Sands Way in front of Crifasi's house Sunday afternoon.  She'd been shot twice in the chest. Her sibling, Montana, circled her while she died.

"Lilly is not coming back, she won't be back," Crifasi said.


Surveillance video captured by cameras on Crifasi's house show the seconds leading up to the shooting.

In the video provided to ABC Action News, you can see Lilly and her sibling Montana, sneak out of their fenced yard by way of a tortoise gopher hole.

At first, the dogs are walking down Sands Way. Then, for a split second, Lilly goes on to Doug Pick's property but quickly retreats.

Pick was standing on the other side of his fence.

Pick claims Lilly charged at him and he felt threatened because the dog was nearing a hole in his fence.

However, the video shows Pick moving from behind the safety of his fence, toward the hole. Pick also told ABC Action News he moved toward the dog from behind his fence and opened fire.

Pick would not speak on camera but did say, "This was unfortunate circumstances. I wish never happened."

He added that he is a dog lover.

"My dog was wagging her tail, wagging her tail, her ears are perky and and she was just wanting to play," Crifasi said.


According to Polk County deputies, Crifasi only showed them a portion of the surveillance footage Sunday afternoon and, based off what they viewed, they believe the video corroborated Pick's story.

However, they say if they get the entire video, they will review it and charges may be filed.

Deputies told ABC Action News since 2011, Crifasi has been cited five times for issues with his dogs including his dogs running loose in the neighborhood and his dogs not having proper identification.

In late January, deputies say they were called out to the neighborhood by Pick, who claimed one of the puppies made its way on to his property and attempted to bite his wife.


This is not the first time Pick has fatally shot a neighbor's dog.

In December of 2014, his next door neighbor's dog climbed a fence into his yard and he shot and killed the dog.

"She was a little Pug/Pekingese mix, probably five, six pounds soaking wet," said Harriet Ballard.  "The day after Christmas she climbed the fence and went over to the neighbor's house."

The next thing Ballard noticed, a deputy was in her yard.

"Apparently he said she was chasing her chickens, which I understand that I have livestock too, but I mean, she was five pounds.  It is starting to become a pattern now when he shoots this other dog," explained Joe Costine.

Costine and Ballard have since put double fences up and installed concrete barriers under their fences so their dogs cannot escape.

They say they fear for the safety of their other dogs.

"We are very ill at ease when they are outside," Costine added.


Gopher Tortoises are a threatened wildlife species that are protected under Florida law.

Crifasi said this has prevented him from filling the hole where his puppies escaped.

Florida law states, "No person shall take, attempt to take, pursue, hunt, harass, capture, possess, sell or transport any gopher tortoise or parts thereof or their eggs, or molest, damage or destroy gopher tortoise burrows, except as authorized by Commission permit or when complying with Commission approved guidelines for specific actions which may impact gopher tortoises and their burrow."

A gopher tortoise burrow is described as a tunnel with a cross-section that closely approximates the shape of a gopher tortoise.