A mother of three says she is terrified of a neighbor who allegedly stabbed her dog and who, in a Facebook video she took, shouts the N-word repeatedly from his porch and says, “The KKK is coming.”
Five years ago, Dawn McDowell, an employee at Petco, moved into the Hammond, Ind., home she shares with her three children: a daughter, 17, a son (who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy), 14, and a daughter, 11 months.
McDowell says that since August 2017, her neighbor Richard Dean Wojtas has harassed her with physical threats and racist taunts. “We live behind a radio station, and one night, he started running from his home to the parking lot yelling, ‘I hate you [N-word], you gang bangers,” McDowell, 40, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When he came outside again holding a brown paper bag, I called the police.”
In October 2017, when she was five months pregnant, McDowell received a hysterical phone call when she was at work, from her eldest daughter. “She said, ‘Animal control and the police are here, you have to come home.'” McDowell came home to find her 5-year-old pit bull Sasha in Wojtas’s yard with a knife stuck in her back.
“I was told that Sasha had gotten into Richard’s yard and attacked one of his dogs,” McDowell tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Richard hit Sasha in the head with a hammer and stabbed her eight times, supposedly to save his dog.” Fortunately, Sasha survived.
McDowell doubted that her dog is capable of aggressive behavior. “Sasha’s only injuries were her stab wounds, and there was no physical evidence that she attacked another dog or even entered Richard’s yard,” she says. “But Richard once told me that his dogs were aggressive and one had attacked the other.”
Wojtas sued McDowell for his medical bills — allegedly $707.40 for his dog’s wounds and $2,640 for a hand injury he sustained trying to break up the dog fight — and she countersued for $2,300, the cost of Sasha’s surgery.
Before their court date in January 2018, McDowell says Wojtas threatened her again. “One day, I let out my dogs in my yard, and Richard came out on his porch and loaded his shotgun,” McDowell tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “He was yelling that he was going to kill my dog, so I took his photo and called the police.”
A probable cause affidavit sent to Yahoo Lifestyle by the Hammond Police Department shows that Wojtas was charged with felony intimidation and was issued a no-contact order.
In court, a judge ruled that McDowell’s dog was at fault and ordered her to pay Wojtas $3,482.70, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana. “The judge said, ‘You’re not going to like my verdict, but since your dog is a pit bull….” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Over the summer, Wojtas reportedly tried to enter an order to garnish McDowell’s wages. Later that year, she filed for bankruptcy. In retaliation, she alleges that Wojtas fired his shotgun from his porch, yelled the N-word, and threw peach-colored paint on her red car. “The police used their body camera to find a trail of paint leading back to Richard’s home,” McDowell tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
She recently filmed a man — allegedly Wojtas — yelling “Kill all the [N-word]” and “The KKK is coming” and posted it on Facebook. A police representative tells Yahoo Lifestyle that “Hammond Police detectives are … deciding if filing additional charges is an option at this time. Detectives are working closely with the victim to ensure that everything possible is done to stop this criminal behavior.”
Wojtas’s lawyer, Shane O’Donnell, was not available when called for comment by Yahoo Lifestyle. He told The Times of Northwest Indiana that Wojtas is a “law-abiding citizen” saying, “The neighbors’ feud began when my client’s neighbor’s dog had attacked him and his dog on his property.”
O’Donnell said Wojtas had a shotgun to protect against McDowell’s dog. “He had every right to be outside and have a legally obtained shotgun, for which he has a valid license for,” O’Donnell told news outlet. “Because [McDowell] doesn’t like my client, she called the police and said he threatened her with the gun, which isn’t true.”
McDowell says her children are frightened of Wojtas, but that she doesn’t want to be driven out of her neighborhood. “Why should I have to leave? I’m in a bad financial bind, in bankruptcy, and can’t afford a new roof,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “He is trying to intimidate me.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: