On December 29th, a man was fatally shot by his neighbor in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a long dispute that started with an animal complaint. Now, new details are out in a lawsuit filed by the man’s surviving family, including his wife who was shot in the leg.

It’s important to note that details are still very sparse, and we’re only getting one side of the story here. The woman who shot the man did the smart thing and refused to talk to police and asked for a lawyer. So, known details all come from the wife of the deceased, who was involved in the dispute. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and more details will probably come to light as the criminal and the civil cases wind their way through the court system.

What we do know is that the dispute between the man, who is a pastor at a local church, and his neighbor, started over a noise complaint to the neighborhood’s HOA involving dogs and chickens. In their infinite wisdom, the HOA told the woman who filed the complaint, and this resulted in a lot of nasty back-and-forth after the complaint.

We don’t know who said what and who did what, but we do know that it eventually resulted in the woman with the dogs and chickens feeling the need to shoot the neighbor and his wife.

An Important Lesson Here

Whether you’re armed or not, it’s extremely important to handle disputes with neighbors extremely carefully. You never know who’s sane and who’s crazy, and you never know how people will react to complaints. You also never know how well or how horribly the little Eichmanns who often run HOAs might handle complaints.

Again, details are sparse, but the whole thing is reminiscent of a defensive shooting that happened in Tucson, Arizona, a few years ago. A neighborly spat ended up with a man getting thrown to the ground and stomped and kicked by several neighbors, who he ended up shooting. I’d recommend reading the whole thing, but in short he managed to win but at great cost and disruption to his life.

It might look easy to play the role of the victim and claim no responsibility in what happens to us, but when people get seriously hurt or killed over something stupid, I can almost guarantee that being right would be a very cold comfort. We don’t know what caused the whole thing to escalate into a shooting, but we do know that a wife and her children are now without a father. They’d probably gladly put up with animal noises and smells until doomsday if it meant getting him back.

It’s extremely important to train in non-violent dispute resolution skills such as verbal judo. Knowing how to calm down stressful situations and knowing how to handle hard things like a complaint with dignity and style can mean the difference between life and death. Doing the opposite, and engaging in tit-for-tat instead of de-escalating the situation can lead to tragedy.

Finally, it pays to have thick skin in today’s world. Whether you’re the one doing the complaining or you’re the one being complained about, maintaining your mental health and not doing anything stupid is essential.

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