Man who shot Zionsville family’s pet tortoise ‘devastated’ by mistake, attorney says

Photo via Tasha Chapel

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. – The man who fatally shot a family’s pet tortoise last week apologized for his “terrible error in judgment,” according to a statement from his attorney.

On Sept. 1, 2017, deputies from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call in rural Zionsville after a tortoise was shot in the head.

Merlin, a 65-lb. African sulcata tortoise, had escaped from his enclosure the day before and was spotted wandering down the road.

His owner, Tasha Chapel, realized he was missing and posted a plea on Facebook to find him. Several people responded with photos that showed Merlin walking along the road. Chapel later learned that a man at a neighboring farm had shot the tortoise and killed him.

According to a statement provided by the law office of Coots, Henke & Wheeler, P.C. in Carmel, the man who shot the tortoise has lived in the area for years and called to apologize to Chapel after shooting the tortoise.

“He expressed his sincere sorrow to the family and continues to indicate a desire to make amends,” the statement read. “The overwhelming negative response on social media with distorted facts and speculation has put a barrier between the man and the pet’s owner with attempts to make amends nearly impossible.”

The statement said Merlin’s family is “understandably angry and grieving the loss of their beloved pet.”

In an interview this week with FOX59, Chapel said Merlin’s breed is neither aggressive nor dangerous to humans. She believes the farmer had several options that didn’t involve shooting the family’s pet.

“He could have called police, he could have called any of the vet clinics around here, there are a ton of them around here,” she said. “He could have called Boone County Humane Society.”

The farmer maintains he thought the tortoise was potentially dangerous.

“[He] is devastated that he mistook the exotic pet for a potentially harmful animal. He is hopeful that he will be able to meet with the pet’s owner to more fully express his sincere apologies,” the statement from his attorney said.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case with help from the Department of Natural Resources, the State Board of Animal Health and Boone County Prosecutor’s Office.

Here’s the full statement from the attorney:

The Zionsville man who has lived in the area for decades, apologized to the pet’s owner immediately after he realized his own terrible error in judgment. He expressed his sincere sorrow to the family and continues to indicate a desire to make amends. The overwhelming negative response on social media with distorted facts and speculation, has put a barrier between the man and the pet’s owner with attempts to make amends nearly impossible.

The family is understandably angry and grieving for the loss of their beloved pet. The man is devastated that he mistook the exotic pet for a potentially harmful animal. He is hopeful that he will be able to meet with the pet’s owner to more fully express his sincere apologies.

Law Office of
Coots, Henke & Wheeler, P.C.