Montana Dog Killer Slapped With Hate Crimes Charges for Shooting Into Gay Couple’s Home

The United States Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that it has filed hate crimes charges against a Billings, Montana man who had previously been convicted of beheading a dog with a chainsaw.

Photo Credit: NBC Montana

John Russell Howald is accused of committing “hate crime and firearm violations for allegedly firing a gun into an individual’s house and threatening the individual with violent, homophobic slurs,” the DOJ said in a press release.

Howald, 44, was indicted on May 20th for “violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and with the use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The indictment alleges that on March 22, 2020, in Basin, Howald attempted to injure an individual because of their actual and perceived sexual orientation by discharging a firearm into the individual’s house, stating that he wanted to ‘get rid of the lesbians [and] gays.’ The offense included an attempt to kill the individual,” the agency said, citing court records.

His arraignment is scheduled for June 29th.

“If convicted, Howald faces up to life in prison on the hate crime charge and a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, on the firearm charge,” the Justice Department added.

Howald was found guilty in 2006 on felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, attempted aggravated animal cruelty, tampering with evidence, criminal endangerment, and two charges of intimidation.

Per Law and Crime:

Court documents alleged that sometime after beheading the dog, Howald also threw a beer bottle at a young boy who was on the campgrounds. When the boy’s father attempted to confront Howald about the incident, Howald allegedly discharged a firearm in the man’s direction after he had turned his back to walk away. The boy’s father said that Howald was ‘clearly intoxicated,’ according to an affidavit obtained by the ‘Independent Record.’

State records also revealed that Howald has several tattoos, including one of a ‘tribal band with a confederate flag’ on his left upper arm and a ‘swastika’ on his left forearm.

Howald “pursued the wounded Lab around the side of a trailer and then into the trees and shot at it a number of times, then came back to the campsite and got a chainsaw and severed the dog’s head,” The Independent Record reported in 2005. “Howald then allegedly drove to a campsite occupied by Mike and Brenda Sullivan of Butte and threw the severed head of their dog at them, saying ‘Here is your f*cking dog back.'”

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