Local family who survived Vegas massacre says comfort dog was shot, killed

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state family who survived the mass shooting last year at a Las Vegas concert says a neighbor shot and killed the dog they got to deal with stress and anxiety from the attack.

The neighbor was cited by police for recklessly firing a gun and declined to comment.

The Bellingham Herald reported that Lona and Joseph Johnson were at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in October when a gunman shot and killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others.

Among the wounded was their cousin, Melinda Brockie, who attended the festival with them.

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The couple heard that dogs are good pets to help heal from post-traumatic stress, Joseph Johnson said, and they picked out a Labradoodle named Jax.

The comfort dog was for themselves and their two children, who weren't at the concert but saw the news coverage and knew their parents had been shot at.

"He was such a blessing," Joseph Johnson said of Jax. ""He gave us something to look forward to. I really believe Jax was a big part of our healing."

Early Sunday, they heard gunshots. They say a neighbor in their rural northwest Washington community shot and killed Jax.

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office said it cited the neighbor, 49-year-old Odin Maxwell, for recklessly discharging a firearm.

The sheriff's office reported that Maxwell said the dog had been chasing his chickens. Investigators turned up no evidence that any chickens had been hurt.

Maxwell, a workers compensation lawyer in Bellingham, declined to comment to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The Johnsons said they had not had any previous dealings with Maxwell, and Joseph Johnson said a nephew even returned one of Maxwell's chickens unharmed after it came onto their property only days before the dog was shot.

He said the couple is considering suing Maxwell. They also plan to host a 5K run for people with their dogs to raise awareness about animal cruelty.

"We're pretty upset and hurt right now," Lona Johnson said. "It triggered a lot of PTSD for our family. We're still trying to deal with what happened in Las Vegas, and then this happened. Everybody who knows us knows how important Jax was to us."