Mark Robert Palmer said he returned home at about 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 15, 2014. “Upon walking up to my house I was surprised not to hear my dog, Otto, bark,” he recalled. Otto was his dachshund. Palmer walked through the downstairs of his two-story townhome on Molavista Way in Solana Beach, toward noises in the backyard.
“Upon opening my back door to the backyard, I saw a large pit bull standing over Otto and viciously attacking him. The pit bull was making growling and chomping sounds as it was repeatedly biting into Otto’s neck…. When the pit bull looked up he was covered in Otto’s blood from his mouth with his entire chest stained in Otto’s blood.”
Palmer’s statements are found in San Diego Superior Court case files.
“It was like a horrible dream,” Palmer recounted. He rushed to rescue his pet and saw Otto’s innards were “protruding out of his stomach” and “some of his body parts were intertwined into the stalks of grass.”
Palmer said he brought Otto into the house and laid him on the floor. He secured his other dog, a four-month-old puppy, inside. Then “I went upstairs to retrieve my handgun. I loaded it and carefully walked into the backyard.... The pit bull was nowhere to be found.”
That was when Palmer noticed a hole in the bottom of the wooden fence bordering his yard. “The fencing planks were three-quarters of an inch thick or more.” He was sure the hole was not there before; he believed the pit bull must have chewed through the board while he was gone. Palmer went next door and, “I pounded on the door loudly.” There was no answer but he could hear the pit bull inside, barking. And he claimed he could see “The side gate to the neighbor’s backyard was open, which would allow the pit bull to escape once again.”
Palmer entered the neighbor’s backyard.
“I walked through the open side gate and peeked around the corner of the house. The lights were on, and I saw the sliding glass door and the screen door were both open allowing the pit bull access to both the backyard and the interior of the house.”
Palmer said he retreated back to his own home, put his handgun back into its case, and tried to help his wounded dog. “I picked up Otto and placed him on the floorboard of my car. I was covered in Otto’s blood and he was breathing in a labored way with the tongue hanging out of his mouth.”
In his five-page declaration, Palmer described driving around, frantically trying to find a veterinarian’s office that was still open. The first two places he tried were closed. “Otto was bleeding, [but] he was alive, and I was talking to him to keep him alive.”
He finally found a pet hospital open in Sorrento Valley. “Otto is not doing well, his breathing is becoming slower, and I was talking to him to hold on for his life.” The desperate man hurried into the animal hospital with his dog in his arms. “The staff members in the room were surprised by the blood and sight of me bringing Otto in...”
Dr. Emily Sachs was able to regain the dog’s heartbeat. But after consultation, “She was not sure of the prognosis for future recovery or if Otto would even become stable. The doctor advised that euthanasia might be the best alternative.” The distressed man reluctantly gave approval. “The first drug relaxed him and I continued to talk to him and lay my head next to his as he was fading off to sleep saying good-bye to him. I loved Otto.”
Palmer said he wept as he drove home. “Upon arriving home I went into the house to find Rebecca crying and cleaning up the blood.” Palmer had phoned his girlfriend Rebecca several times during that night’s events. He warned her about the neighbor’s dog and braced her for the blood she would find in their home.
Palmer said he went next door, twice more, each time pounding on the front door, but there was no answer. He said he could hear the pit bull barking “ferociously.”
“Rebecca told me that she had called both 911 and animal control. The 911 dispatcher refused to send a police officer and just referred her to animal control.” Rebecca left a message at the animal control number. Palmer said they could not find help. “At this point I was scared of what this pit bull might do and mad for the lack of support from the 911 dispatcher or animal control.”
Palmer and Rebecca collected their surviving puppy and went for a drive. “We decided to leave the house because of the anger and grief for Otto’s death and the accumulation of events during the past two hours.” While in the car, they got a return call from someone at animal control. “I discuss with animal control if they will come get the dog, they say no because it was no longer in my yard. I believed the pit bull still posed a danger to myself, my family, and my property.” Palmer said he pleaded for someone to please come deal with the pit bull. “I was in total disbelief at animal control’s unwillingness to respond,” he stated.
It was after 10:30 p.m. when Palmer and his girlfriend returned home with their surviving puppy. “Rebecca took her outside to pee out the back door.”
“Rebecca screamed, and I came out to see the top of the pit bull’s head poking through the hole in the fence.” Palmer said he yelled and the neighbor’s dog retreated, and then he restored the concrete block he had placed over the hole. Then he went upstairs to get his gun again. Minutes later, Palmer phoned authorities to report that he had shot his neighbor’s pit bull.
“The police responded and called animal control, which now responded in a very short amount of time.”
Sheriff’s deputy Ken Wells said it was 11:33 p.m. when he got a call to contact Mark Robert Palmer on Molavista Way in Solana Beach.
Deputies went to the neighbor’s home, to see if they could find the pit bull. “Deputy Silva observed from the patio a large amount of blood on the living room floor and a trail of blood leading up the stairs,” Deputy Wells stated in his report. “The blood trail appeared to start at the sofa, which is located about 15 feet in from the rear sliding glass door.” The dead pit bull was found at the top of the stairs.
Officers noticed a hole in the living room sofa and retrieved a nine-milimeter bullet from inside. The deputy stated that the “trajectory” of the bullet indicated the shot was fired from the area of the rear sliding glass door, which was found open.
Palmer’s pistol, a Sig Sauer P226, was confiscated. He voluntarily spoke with deputies at the Encinitas station, and his statements were recorded. He insisted: “At no time did I ever enter the neighbor’s house.”
The neighbor who owned the pit bull, Nicole Lynn, declared in court papers: “He brutally murdered my family member, my dog,” and “I am scared that someone capable of breaking into a home to kill an animal... he might do it again and hurt me.” She requested a temporary restraining order, which was first granted and later rescinded.
Palmer, 55, was arrested and charged with three felonies: shooting at an inhabited dwelling, burglary, and animal abuse. He paid a $5000 fee to King Stahlman Bail Bonds to post his $50,000 bail. He made a plea deal on March 30, 2015, admitting felony animal cruelty for killing the pit bull.
On April 28, judge Carlos Armour remarked that “I am a dog owner” and expressed compassion because Palmer had witnessed his dog being killed on his own property. The judge ordered 180 days’ custody for Palmer but then declared the sentence suspended and granted him probation.