Husband of Wayne village president won’t be charged in Aug. 10 shooting death of neighbor’s dog

Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser cited video evidence and an independent witness who corroborated the story of Hal Phipps, who is the husband of Wayne Village President Eileen Phipps.

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Joe Petit with his dog Philotimo in his back yard in Wayne, Ill., Wednesday morning, Sept. 1, 2021.

Joe Petit with his dog, Philotimo, in his back yard in west suburban Wayne. Petit said his neighbor, Hal Phipps, had no justification for shooting Petit’s other dog, Ludwig, on Aug. 10. Authorities decided otherwise this week.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Jamie Mosser said she’d reviewed the “dozens upon dozens” of emails and phone calls in support of the slain dog, she’d seen the “Justice for Ludwig” signs dotted about town and she said she is herself a dog lover.

But in the end, after a weekslong investigation that left “no stone unturned,” Kane County’s top prosecutor said Wednesday that the facts prevented her from filing charges against the husband of the village of Wayne President Eileen Phipps.

“The evidence that we have now shows that Mr. [Hal] Phipps feared for his safety and his life and was legally justified in the shooting of Ludwig,” Mosser said in announcing her decision.

For weeks, many in and around the tiny west suburban town of Wayne had been calling for criminal charges against Hal Phipps, who has admitted to shooting Ludwig, a Dogo Argentino pack-hunting dog, on Aug. 10. Ludwig’s distraught owner, Joe Petit, has said Ludwig and the dog’s sibling, Philotimo, are as sweet and harmless as kittens.

The Phippses, who have lived next door to Petit for 20 years, say the dogs are a menace. Eileen Phipps has called the reactions on social media to the shooting “beyond vicious and unfair.”

“My family is very thankful that the evidence proved that my husband was in fear for his life and acted in self-defense. We’re very thankful for the thorough investigation that was conducted by the Kane County sheriff’s office and the state’s attorney, Ms. Mosser,” Eileen Phipps said Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously, we regret that Mr. Petit’s dog lost its life, … but he should have taken steps to contain his pets.”

Petit could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Mosser and Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said video surveillance from Petit’s property and the words from an independent witness support Hal Phipps’ story.

Phipps has told sheriff’s deputies he shot Ludwig on Aug. 10 after it and Philotimo came onto his property and approached aggressively, leaving him in fear for his life. Phipps filed a police report in June, alleging one of the dogs bit him at that time.

“Note that Mr. Phipps was so concerned for his own safety on his property that he began carrying a firearm with him while he was doing yard work,” Hain said.

Petit previously said that on the day Ludwig was shot, his dogs were with a close friend in the Fox River, which flows past Petit’s property. The friend, Kathleen Czaplewski, has said she was playing with Ludwig when she suddenly heard a “Pop! Pop! Pop!” The dog then fell lifeless into the river.

But investigators say Czaplewski’s story has changed over time and that she appeared “visibly intoxicated” immediately after the shooting. The video evidence, backed up by the independent witness, shows the dogs not initially in the water but running away from the line separating the Phipps’ property from Petit’s at the time of the shooting, investigators say.

Mosser noted how Ludwig’s death had shown how a community can come together to support “one of its own.”

“I hope that this support continues towards healing and not toward any further division, Mosser said.

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