Who, age What Where When Last known address
Robert Barnard Fire Captain shot, killed a neighborhood dog inside a firestation

Nashville, TN

Davidson County

February 3, 2001  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved
disciplinary hearing   1 dog

A veteran Metro fire captain accused of shooting and killing a neighborhood dog inside a fire hall has been formally accused of violating Metro civil service rules and faces a disciplinary hearing.

Acting Metro Fire Chief Billy Lynch notified Capt. Robert Barnard that charges were filed with the Fire Department of violating Metro's rules on carrying firearms and standards for employee conduct.

Lynch's letter sets out the following account of what happened:

About 6 a.m. Feb. 3, Barnard was confronted by what he thought was a vicious dog inside Fire Station No. 3 at 840 Meridian St. Barnard pulled his personal handgun and shot the dog once, killing it. He then failed to report the incident.

"This type of action is below the accepted standards of this department and will not be tolerated," the letter states.

The 6-year-old female dog -- named Sammy -- that was killed Feb. 3 was one of two security dogs owned by Professional Lawn Care & Landscaping Co. The business is next door to the fire hall at Meridian and Cleveland streets in east Nashville.

Vicki Summers, an employee of Professional Lawn Care, said she'd like to see if she can attend the hearing to "make sure the facts are stated correctly."

Barnard could have waived the disciplinary hearing, but requested one by signing the letter. He has the right to be represented by an attorney or another representative at the meeting, and may call witnesses. If a violation is found, Barnard may receive sanctions that range from a reprimand to loss of his job.

The Fire Department hasn't finished its investigation, but Lynch said there was enough evidence to hold the hearing. Once the investigation is complete, Lynch said he will share information with Metro Animal Control and the Police Department.

Barnard, who joined the Fire Department in 1977, declined to comment on the matter, saying he had been advised against it. His personnel file contains no record of past disciplinary action, Lynch said.

The dog had shown up at the lawn-care business as a puppy, Summers said. Sammy, obedience-trained and weighing about 40 to 50 pounds, was there to guard the property, Summers said, but got along with employees and played with workers' children.

Sammy once chased an intruder out of the fenced area she guarded, but the only trouble Summers knew about was when a woman she called a "patrol mother" said Sammy would get loose and bark at school children.

The dog wouldn't attack unless provoked. "If she growled at anyone I don't know," Summers said.

Last summer, firefighters next door began bringing leftover food to Sammy and the other guard dog, Sammy's offspring. "Sammy got real attached to some of them," Summers said. Soon the dog began digging past the fence. Sammy often stayed overnight with firefighters. Someone from the business would go to the fire hall the next day to retrieve the dog.

So when Summers and her co-workers arrived at work Feb. 3, they weren't surprised when Sammy wasn't there. They figured she was next door at the fire station.   When the dog hadn't come back, employee Charles Adams went next door.

Usually, Adams said, firefighters would chat with him, but that day, "everyone kind of dropped their head and walked away." One man, an engineer whose name Adams didn't know, "just kind of looked up at me kind of sad-like," and told him he needed to talk with Barnard the next day.

Summers gave this account of what happened: She called Barnard at home, who said he needed to make a few phone calls and would call her back. He called back that evening and said that when he had arrived at the fire hall at 6:30 a.m. Feb. 3, the dog was there and he wanted the dog to leave.  "She turned around and growled at me and I shot her," she says Barnard said.

He said the dog had not attacked him. "Can you explain to me why your only alternative was to shoot the dog?" she asked. Barnard "really didn't give me much explanation as to anything."

The next day, Barnard stopped by the business to try to tell Summers what happened and to apologize. She asked for the dog's body, but Barnard said he didn't have it. She said she then asked Barnard to leave.

Summers said Fire Department investigators haven't talked with her or her co-workers. Lynch said that wasn't necessary to determine whether weapons rules were violated.

Update 2/17/01:  A Nashville Fire Department captain who admitted to fatally shooting a dog in a fire hall will find out early next week whether he will keep his job, officials said.

Capt. Robert Barnard , who was charged with violating Metro standards for employee conduct and ignoring civil service rules against carrying a firearm in a fire station, admitted during a Fire Department disciplinary hearing that he was guilty of killing the dog, said Mike Turner, vice president of the Nashville Firefighters Association.

"He made a mistake," Turner said. However, Barnard, a 24-year Fire Department veteran with decorated service in Vietnam, does not deserve to lose his job, Turner said.

"They're trying to make this dog look like he was a pet," Turner said. "He's chased kids around the neighborhood. He's snapped at kids before."

Vicki Summers, an employee of the Professional Lawn Care & Landscaping Co. told The Tennessean last week that the dog would attack only if provoked.

Acting Fire Chief Billy Lynch said he will decide next week whether Barnard will keep his job and if a punishment is warranted.

Update 2/21/01:  The acting Metro fire chief has fired a captain in the Nashville Fire Department for having a pistol he used to shoot and kill a dog inside a fire hall.

"Basically it boiled down to one issue -- and that issue is the weapon," acting Fire Chief Billy Lynch said. "It was a very difficult decision."

Capt. Robert Barnard, as a Fire Department supervisor, was expected to follow the rules of Metro government and not take a gun into the station, Lynch said.

The decision had nothing to do with the death of the dog and everything to do with following rules and keeping others safe, he said.  "The weapon is the only issue -- and then to further draw it and discharge it jeopardized the safety of everybody involved," Lynch said. "The dog -- I hate to say -- is not involved in the decision."

Lynch would not say when he told Barnard that he was fired.  A firefighters union representative is calling on Mayor Bill Purcell to investigate Lynch's decision.

"I think it was a terrible management decision," said Mike Turner, vice president of the Nashville Firefighters Association. "The punishment really outweighed what he did. I think Mayor Purcell's office should investigate it."

The decision to fire Barnard sends a message to firefighters that they aren't allowed to make a mistake, he said. Turner will talk with Barnard to see if he plans to appeal the decision.

At a civil service hearing last week, Barnard admitted shooting and killing a neighborhood dog in Fire Station No. 3 at 840 Meridian St. During the hearing, Turner acknowledged that Barnard was wrong but pleaded for the job of the captain, who had been with the department since 1977.


The Tennessean