Naked man arrested for shooting, killing two dogs 

July 8, 2024

Duling

By Allison Scarbrough, News Editor

BENONA TOWNSHIP — A 55-year-old Pleasant Lake, Michigan man faces six felony counts after shooting and killing two dogs in the 7400 block of Johnson Road last week, according to Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast. 

Thomas John Duling was arrested Wednesday, July 3 at 5:45 p.m. after a strange series of events that began the evening of Tuesday, July 2.

Duling was “dogsitting” a male pit bull and a male American bulldog, which were both shot in the head, said Sheriff Mast. He was watching the dogs for his friends who were staying at a Silver Lake area Airbnb that does not allow pets. “He was staying in some type of a shack on the property with a tent,” Mast said.

“They went out to check on the dogs, and the dogs were both dead and their friend was standing there naked, and he was armed with some substantial firearms.”

The dog owners told police that it seemed like Duling mentally “snapped.”

He was arraigned in Oceana County’s 79th District Court on two counts of felony animal abandonment/cruelty; assault with a dangerous weapon; and three counts of felony firearm. His bond was set at $25,000/cash/surety/10 percent, which his family posted, said Mast.

“While deputies were on the property, another call came into dispatch from a neighboring resident. He stated that the suspect was wrapped in a tarp or blanket and pulled a gun on him.

“He thought he would stop and talk to Tom like he has many times in the past, and Tom was standing there naked at the property line.” The neighbor told police that he pulled a handgun out of the blanket and set it down next to him about a foot away. He made some confusing and threatening statements.

“I really think this is more of a psychotic break. He does not appear to be a long-term criminal,” Mast said. “I don’t think his actions were driven by criminal intent. I believe his actions were driven by some sort of mental health situation.

“Because we were led to believe he was armed with substantial firearms and we believed him to be alone, with no one else in danger, we didn’t think it would be an advantage for law enforcement to go traipsing around his property in the dark looking for him. We didn’t believe anyone else was at risk except maybe himself. We let it soak overnight, trying to keep an eye from afar.”

The suspect’s family called the following day, extremely concerned that they couldn’t make contact with him. “So, we called our emergency response team — swat team — to assist. We brought some aviation assets. We attempted to contact him by phone and other means and were unsuccessful, so we approached the residence in armored vehicles to make contact with the suspect. The suspect did present himself and he was still unclothed and still bearing a blanket. There was great concern about what he was concealing under the blanket. He dove onto the ground and was huddled under the blanket. He was given encouragement and then blunt encouragement to show us his hands. A less than lethal striking device was used to apply pain compliance.” 

The Mason-Oceana Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) is a joint operation between Oceana County Sheriff’s Office and Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

He showed his hands and officers attempted to take him into custody. “He rescinded his hands and began to resist.” He ultimately was taken into custody and lodged in the Oceana County Jail.

Police came to the property with a search warrant and an arrest warrant. “We were concerned about his wellbeing.”

The suspect stays on the property on Johnson Road in the summer and a location in Pleasant Lake during the winter owned by his friends who were dogs’ owners, said the sheriff.

A mental competency evaluation is set for July 16 in district court. 

Duling is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.

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