The man shot and killed by a hiker on a remote trail last week, has been identified as 43-year-old Grant Edward Kuenzli, a volunteer at the Payson Humane Society.
Coconino County Sheriff's Det. Scott Feagan said the evidence shows that the hiker, Harold Fish, 57, of Glendale, was fending off an attack by an unarmed Kuenzli and his three dogs when he shot him.
The incident occurred on the evening of May 11 as Fish was returning to the Pine Canyon trailhead off Highway 87, south of Clint's Well.
After shooting Kuenzli, Fish, who was uninjured in the confrontation, flagged down an off-duty U.S. Forest Service employee who called the sheriff's office.
The Pine-Strawberry fire department responded, but according to Captain Ray Groves, Kuenzli was dead when they arrived.
Two of Kuenzli's dogs were found curled-up, hiding in his car. Another was captured nearby. All three were taken by county animal control and are currently at the Flagstaff animal shelter.
Detectives, crime scene technicians and investigators from the Coconino County Attorney's Office arrived at the scene and began an investigation that lasted throughout the night and the following morning.
The facts and evidence in the case will be presented to a grand jury in the coming weeks, Feagan said. At that time, the grand jurors will make a determination of what, if any, charges will be filed against the hiker.
"The scene will show that (Fish) was under attack," Feagan said."While the case is still under investigation, we can't comment on the details of the evidence."
Senior Editor of Gun Week Magazine, Dave Workman, said the national publication monitors issues relating to firearms and the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"The story got my attention because I know of other cases where people have been accosted by people and their dogs, but I've never heard of one where someone actually got shot," Workman said. "Dogs can kill you just as easily as someone with a weapon. In a situation where you are confronted by an individual who has a potentially vicious dog -- that dog becomes a lethal weapon.
"The statutes stipulate that you have a right to defend yourself when a reasonable person would feel in imminent danger of bodily harm," Feagan said.
According to the specific statute, justification for use of deadly physical force is "when and to the degree a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly physical force."
The statutes dictate that physical force, lethal or non-lethal, is not justifiable in response to a verbal provocation alone or if the aggressor clearly communicates his intent to withdraw from the encounter.
The grand jury will look at the available evidence and decide whether Fish was reasonable in his belief that he was in imminent danger of serious injury or death at the time he fired his gun, Feagan said. If they see enough evidence to convince them it was self-defense, Fish won't be charged and the criminal case will be closed. If they feel there is insufficient evidence to justify self-defense, they could indict Fish on a manslaughter, or possibly, a murder charge.
"They will base their decision on the totality of the circumstances," Feagan said.
"All the elements put together."
Who was Grant Kuenzli?
Not much is known about Kuenzli, but, according to those he worked with at the humane society, he was a kind-hearted man whose home was his car and a campsite. He was a former firefighter on disability who loved animals and was incapable of the violence he is accused of.
"We know that Grant was a retired, disabled fireman and that he did have some post-traumatic stress, but we don't believe that he attacked this man," shelter board member Lisa Boyle said. "We don't want him to be known as some anonymous transient who attacked a helpless hiker."
"My understanding of Grant's situation was that he had retired from firefighting due to a disability," humane society volunteer, Mary Williams, said. "He lived in an apartment in Phoenix and decided to put everything in storage and spend some time enjoying the freedom of camping. He was a dedicated volunteer at the humane society."
"Grant was a gentleman," humane society staff member, Kim Garza, said. "I never saw a mean bone in his body."
Of the three dogs at the scene, Maggie, a golden retriever mix, was Kuenzli's dog. The other two, Hank, a chow-mix and Sheba, a shepherd mix, lived at the humane society. Kuenzli was working with them to make them more adoptable, according to humane society and Paws in the Park volunteer Cindy Bartholomew.
"He would take them with him on overnights at his campsite and he would try to socialize them," Bartholomew said. "Grant was a really super guy and we can't believe that anyone would think of him as threatening."
"I had an argument with Grant once, but even then, he never used swear words or in any way threatened me," shelter staff member Falicia D'Addabbo said. "I could never picture him attacking someone."
"For me, it was incomprehensible to hear that Grant and the dogs would attack another hiker," shelter volunteer Diane Brown said.
"We knew he lived out of his car," Jan Hanna said. "It would be easy to paint him as an attacker, but this is not the man we knew. He was a very kind-hearted man. It's a dead man's word against another man."
But it's more than one man's word, according to Feagan.
"My investigation will show it was self-defense," Feagan said."We have put a ton of work into this. We have had to put this puzzle together with every piece that we can find so the grand jury and the public will have a picture of what happened."
Until the case is closed, Feagan said he is prohibited from releasing any information that could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation and the impending grand jury proceedings.
"People said (serial killer) Ted Bundy was a gentle man," Workman said. "People have the right to defend themselves and Arizona law allows you to do that even if the other person is not armed."
"We just want to know what happened," Hanna said. "Grant can't tell us and the dogs can't."
The fate of the dogs
Kuenzli's friends at the humane society say they are deeply concerned about the fate of the three dogs currently in the custody of Coconino County Animal Control. They fear the hiker's allegation that they were aggressive could mean a death sentence -- that Maggie, Hank and Sheba will be euthanized.
Feagan said he doesn't know what will happen to the dogs.
"It will be at the discretion of the courts because they are prospective evidentiary items -- they are a part of the scene," Feagan said. "Once the issue is adjudicated, the judge overseeing the case will make a determination."
"There is nothing we can do for Grant, but we can save his dog," Bartholomew said. "His dog, Maggie -- she is such a sweet dog and I can't even believe they are thinking about putting these dogs down."
"We are very concerned about Maggie and the other two shelter dogs that were with him," Boyle said. "Maggie was one of the neatest dogs on earth."
"Grant loved Maggie so much," Brown said. "He had a magnetic sign with her picture and name on the side of the car."
"Maggie was wonderful," Barbara Brenke said, "Hank was a beautiful dog and very friendly with people. I never saw any aggression towards people. Sheba was a scared little girl. --very shy and Grant was trying to socialize her."
"Sheba was really sweet," D'Addabbo said. "She probably weighed 30 pounds. She was really shy, but never aggressive -- she never showed her teeth or anything."
"None of the dogs were aggressive," Williams said. "I know Hank didn't like male dogs, but the two females got along with everyone. It's my understanding that we are not allowed to keep animals that show aggressive tendencies."
Gila County Sheriff's Detectives George Ratliff and Brian Havey had an encounter with Hank.
"We went to talk to a Pine resident and Hank was sitting in a chair in front of the house," Havey said. "He was fine until we knocked on the door -- then he just went for (Ratliff). He almost had to shoot the dog, but the owner came out and pulled the dog away."
Havey said Hank was picked up twice by the county animal control officer. The owner did not get the dog back after the second time, so Hank remained at the humane society.
"They shouldn't take it out on the dogs," Bartholomew said. "They should be returned to our humane society and given an opportunity to have a normal life."