Shooting Case Reveals Wild West Mentality


It looks like Grant Kuenzli was not the homeless loner investigators believed when they arrived at the scene where he was shot to death by a hiker.

The 43-year-old had many friends who are devastated by his death and outraged by the hasty conclusions of the investigators.

Had he not had ties to the community, in particular the Payson Humane Society and Paws in the Park, the case may have already been closed and the file tossed into a drawer.

In the scenario, which played out on the evening of May 11, 57-year-old retired teacher Harold Fish of Glendale encountered Kuenzli and three dogs as he finished his 10-mile hike. Fish said three vicious dogs came running toward him and he fired a warning shot at the ground. As the dogs dispersed, Kuenzli, with "a crazy look in his eyes," came at Fish, "punching at him."

Fish fired three shots into Kuenzli's chest with his 10mm semi-automatic gun.

As Coconino County Sheriff's detectives, a member of the Coconino County Attorney's Office, crime scene technicians and the medical examiner processed the scene, all concurred this was a "self-defense situation."

They looked at Kuenzli's old car, packed with camping supplies and accepted Fish's word -- hook, line, and sinker.

Yet, those who knew Kuenzli's character as not the kind of raging lunatic described by Fish, protested the conclusion.

The case will soon go before a grand jury in Flagstaff and it will decide, based on physical evidence, and the testimony of the shooter, if Fish will face any criminal charges.

We hope the grand jury asks the same questions posed by Kuenzli's friends and members of the public:

Did Fish have options other than lethal force? Was there truly no alternative but to shoot and kill Kuenzli?

Can you use lethal force against an unarmed man because he has "a crazy look in his eyes" and his dogs are unrestrained?

If Fish didn't have a scratch on him, was he really in a life-threatening situation? If the dogs were attacking, why didn't he shoot the dogs?

If the grand jury, within the closed courtroom, decides to release Fish from any responsibility, we are setting a very dangerous precedent -- anyone who feels "threatened" can unholster a gun and blow away the perceived threat.

The case becomes a primer for how to kill someone and get away with it. If you do shoot, shoot to kill, especially if there are no witnesses. Then tell police that you were in fear for your life and the perpetrator said he was going to kill you. There you have it ... the Arizona way to use lethal force on another human being.

Welcome to the Wild, Wild West.

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