Comfort Dogs and Handlers caught in cross fire on Church bus

Noah and LouieNoah and Louie

Joplin police say a man has been arrested after five people were injured in two apparently random roadway shootings.

Tom Mourning, 26, is accused of opening fire on vehicles as police pursued him early Saturday morning. Bullets flew into a pickup and a nearby church van.

Two people in the truck and two people in the church van were wounded. Two comfort dogs were shot in the crossfire, and one of their handlers remains in critical but stable condition.

Police said there’s no apparent motive for the shooting.

The church group caught in the crossfire was on the way to St. Louis for a regional training seminar for the Comfort Dogs Ministry.

In our Alive and Well STL coverage, we’ve told you about this mission before.

“We all have the same goal, to use the dogs to comfort people. They’re out giving comfort to people, and now suddenly they’re needing comfort, ” said Bill Dieterichs, a Comfort Dog Handler in St. Louis.

He and more than a dozen handlers were expecting the Joplin group to attend a day long training Seminar Saturday.

But a random shooting Saturday morning has turned the tables on those handlers.

Kenneth Eby, and Heidi Gustin with the Lutheran Comfort Dog Ministry, as well as another driver were shot.

“All of them have been treated and released, but [Eby] was shot in the lung [and] is in critical but stable condition,” said Glenn Nielsen, Comfort Dog Handler.

Also shot were two comfort dogs Louie and Jackson. Despite a graze wound to the ear, and a gunshot wound to the neck, both dogs are expected to be ok.

“They’re a couple great dogs. They got those dogs after the Joplin tornado and that’s why they have those two dogs down there,” said Dieterichs

Fellow handlers say they’ll now be leaning on their own comfort dogs as they struggle to make sense of what happened.

There are 11 comfort dogs around the state, and some of them will now be headed to Joplin to bring comfort.

“It’s easy to say it’s about the dog, but it’s not about the dog. The dog is a bridge to bring us to people in need,” said Dieterichs.

Mourning is being charged with several counts of Assault , Armed Criminal Action, and unlawful Use of a Weapon.

The Comfort Dog Handlers in our story say they want the people of St. Louis to know these comfort dogs are available to anyone who needs them

Each dog has their own Facebook page where you can request a visit.

UPDATE from Louie Comfort Dog:

PRAYERS NEEDED: Please keep the members of our Immanuel-Joplin Comfort Dog team in your prayers, as well as the other individuals involved in this morning’s shooting spree in Joplin. One of our members is in critical care after being shot in the lung. Another was shot in the arm. Another took glass fragments to the head. All are out of surgery and in stable condition. The other Comfort Dog team humans were not physically harmed… Our two Comfort Dogs Jackson and Louie, both sustained bullet wounds. Jackson was shot through the ear flap, and Louie in the neck. Louie is now out of surgery. The bullet slug was successfully removed… Please pray for the man who did this. We are thankful that he is in custody, and pray that he will receive the help that he needs, finding the grace and forgiveness that comes in Christ alone… Praise God that He has protected the people of our congregation and our city once again. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.Saturday, August 13

The LCC K-9 Comfort Dog team of Jackson Comfort Dog and Louie Comfort Dog, along with their handlers of Immanuel Lutheran Church – Joplin, Missouri, were caught in crossfire shootings early this morning while riding in the church van. Several members were shot and are hospitalized, one critical but stable, the other in serious condition. LCC K-9 Comfort Dog teams and Lutheran Church Charities staff are headed to Joplin now to support the team. Please keep everyone in your prayers and we will keep everyone posted with updates.

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 August 2016 14:59

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