Police: Strafford man punched dog, brandished gun

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 09-19-2023 8:28 PM

STRAFFORD — A Strafford man is facing charges of criminal threatening and animal cruelty after he allegedly pointed a gun at a group of people and punched a dog in the face after threatening to shoot it.

James Savery, of LaFleur Road, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in Orange County Superior Court in Chelsea on Monday on three counts of reckless endangerment plus charges of criminal threatening and animal cruelty after he reacted in anger when he learned the dog had bitten an adult family member, according to police.

Police said they were called at around 1:30 p.m. Saturday by a relative at the scene reporting that Savery, 53, “was upset, waving a gun around and pointing it at people,” before others in attendance managed to take the gun away and subdue him, an affidavit from Vermont State Police in support of the charges said.

According to police, the incident began when Savery was driving home from Lebanon on Saturday and was informed that the dog, which belongs to a relative, had bitten another adult.

Once he got home, Savery reportedly grabbed the leash away from a relative and took the dog outside. He announced he was going to shoot the animal, pointed a handgun at a woman who tried to stop him and threatened to shoot her, too, if she didn’t get out of the way, according to an affidavit from Vermont State Police.

At that point, another person who was sitting in a car parked in the driveway and observed the scene unfold, got out of the car and inserted himself between Savery and the woman he is alleged to have threatened. Savery then pointed the gun at that man until he and another family member “were able to wrestle the gun away” from Savery, according to the affidavit.

Savery then approached the car where the dog — a 2-year-old mixed breed named Bronco — was sitting with another woman; Savery attempted to pull the dog out of the car, police said. As the woman held onto the dog to keep it from being removed from the car, Savery “started to punch Bronco in the face,” police said.

At that point, one of the men who had wrestled away the gun “then came over and pulled Savery away from the car and eventually held him down until he was calm,” where he remained until police arrived.

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During the incident, Savery is alleged to have pointed his gun, a .380 caliber handgun, at three different adults who “were not sure if Savery would shoot them but were in fear for their safety,” according to the affidavit.

After being read his Miranda rights, Savery told one of the troopers “that he was trying to put his dog down as he had become aggressive and has been biting people, including him.” He denied pointing the gun or threatening anyone, although acknowledged “it could have inadvertently been pointed at someone” when the gun was being wrestled away from him, the affidavit said.

Savery entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment at Orange County Superior Court in Chelsea on Monday afternoon, where he also requested a public defender application.

Savery was released on conditions, among them not to “abuse or harass” any of the six individuals who were present at the incident.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.