In a case that has shocked Arizona animal activists, prosecutors have decided not to charge a Flagstaff police officer who in a gruesome incident this summer used his baton, boot and a cable to kill an injured dog after a fellow officer accidentally hit the animal with his car.
In August, Cpl. John Tewes was called after another officer hit a loose dog with his car about 2:30 a.m. Tewes and the other officer decided the dog needed to be euthanized, but Tewes was concerned about using his gun in the neighborhood.
Prosecutors said Tewes repeatedly tried to bludgeon the dog to death, but it didn't die. He then tried to jump on the dog's head and cave in its skull, but that too failed to kill the animal. Eventually, after some 20 to 30 minutes of trying to kill the dog, Tewes used a hobble, which is like a metal cable, to try to strangle the dog. It took several tries before the dog died.
"Tewes stated that he was thinking that he could not believe the dog wasn't dead yet, and it was the most bizarre thing," according to a Coconino County sheriff's investigative report quoted in the Arizona Daily Sun.
Activists on Friday told the Los Angeles Times there was no excuse for the officer’s actions.
“My first question was, was there not a veterinary clinic within the area to take the animal to be humanely euthanized,” Brett Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Humane Society told The Times. “I just cannot imagine that was not a possibility. If an animal is suffering from injuries, certainly we understand that we aren’t able to save them all; the most dignified end of suffering is humane euthanasia.”
The Navajo County attorney's office said in a letter to Flagstaff police this week that there was insufficient evidence to pursue a case against Tewes, the Daily Sun reported.
During the investigation, Tewes told investigators he regularly clubbed animals to end their suffering while he was hunting, and he thought he would be able to kill the dog quickly with his baton. He said he didn't ask other officers for advice about other methods because he thought he knew how to do it.
The dog's body was left between two vehicles behind the police station and later stored in a freezer at the Humane Assn. The owners didn't learn of the death until five days later, the newspaper reported.
Flagstaff police are conducting an internal investigation. Officials say that departmental protocol requires officers to contact either the animal control officer or the Humane Assn. shelter's 24-hour animal ambulance to deal with injured animals. But that had not been formal policy. Since then, the department has increased officer training in dealing with such incidents.
Flagstaff Police Chief Kevin Treadway issued a public apology over the incident.
"I have personally apologized to the dog owner for what occurred in this particular case, and I want the community to know that I understand their concerns regarding Corporal Tewes' actions in this case and have taken measures to make sure this never happens again," he told reporters.
Still, the killing has left animal activists shaking their heads.
“You never take such matters into your own hands,” Nelson said. "I just can’t justify that behavior for anyone, whether it’s a young child, a businessman, but especially not a police officer. It’s disturbing.”