|See Zeppelin's story below|
In a shocking case, Deputy Navajo County Attorney Michael Tunink decided not to charge a Flagstaff police officer who intentionally, knowingly, recklessly and gruesomely mistreated and killed an owned dog without owner consent – even though the owner was within close proximity to the killing.
"There is insufficient evidence of a culpable mental state for prosecution," Tunink wrote in a letter to Flagstaff police.
According to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office a loose dog was hit by a patrol car around 2:30 a.m. on August 19th. The patrol officer called Corporal Tewes for help. The two decided the dog should be euthanized; but Tewes was unsure about using his gun.
Instead, he told prosecutors, that he tried repeatedly to bludgeon the dog to death, but it just wouldn’t die. So he jumped on the dog's head in an attempt to crush its skull, but that also failed to kill the animal. After nearly 30 horrific minutes of trying to kill the dog, Tewes used a metal cable to strangle the dog. He said it took several tries but the dog finally died.
Tewes told prosecutors he just “could not believe the dog wasn't dead yet." He also told investigators that he regularly clubs animals to death when he’s hunting and thought he could quickly kill the dog with his baton.
The dog's body was discarded behind the Flagstaff police station but later taken to the Flagstaff Humane Association. The owners didn't learn of their pet’s death until five days later. Flagstaff Police Chief Kevin Treadway said it wasn't clear when the dog owner was notified - even though a neighbor had pointed out the dog owner's home to Tewes while the dog was still alive.
Officials say departmental protocol requires officers to contact animal control or the Flagstaff Humane Association's 24-hour animal ambulance to care for injured animals. It is also departmental policy to only euthanize animals with a sidearm or shotgun. Officers are also required to immediately inform the animal owner when an animal is dispatched. The sheriff’s office investigation found all the other officers and supervisors involved in the case were aware of these policies.
Chief Treadway issued a public apology, stating, "I have personally apologized to the dog owner…, 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”.
Although no criminal charges will be filed against the police officer, Chief Treadway informed me that Corporal Tewes, who had violated numerous department policies, had resigned from the Flagstaff Police Department.
I commend Chief Treadway for the serious manner in which he conducted the internal investigation despite the incomprehensible findings of the Navaho County Attorney’s Office. Within a week of the incident, the Chief had implemented a policy specifically addressing the treatment of injured domesticated animals, and every officer has been trained on the proper way to handle these situations.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent, Christopher Hedges, has rightly observed, “Violence is a disease that corrupts all who use it regardless of the cause.” The Flagstaff community can rest a little easier knowing that this disease has been removed from their Police Department. The rest of us can only hope it never finds its way into our communities.
Zeppelin is a 1-year-old male Labrador retriever who was hit by a car, requiring the amputation of his left rear leg. Zeppelin is underweight and needs a loving home to fatten him up. Zeppelin qualifies for the YHS Back in Black Pick Your Price Adoptathon. Come on by to meet Zeppelin up close and personal. If you would like to make a donation to help animals like Zeppelin, send your donation to the Yavapai Humane Society.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.