Flagstaff police officer cleared of animal cruelty in dog's beating death

2012-10-11T05:05:00Z Flagstaff police officer cleared of animal cruelty in dog's beating deathERIC BETZ Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun
October 11, 2012 5:05 am  • 

No criminal charges will be filed against the Flagstaff police officer who used his baton, boot and a cable to kill an injured dog in Sunnyside in August.

Officials with the Navajo County Attorney's Office said that there was insufficient evidence to pursue prosecution in the case of the Cpl. John Tewes.

"This includes, but is not limited to, the fact that there is insufficient evidence of a culpable mental state for prosecution," Deputy Navajo County Attorney Michael Tunink wrote in a letter to Flagstaff police Tuesday. "If additional evidence is submitted, I will, of course, review my decision at that time."

Prosecutors have also decided against pursuing charges that Tewes made threatening statements about his ex-wife.

POLICY VIOLATIONS

However, Flagstaff Chief of Police Kevin Treadway said that the criminal charges were only one part of their investigation. He said Tewes violated numerous department policies.

An internal investigation in the case has been completed, but is still waiting on one last piece of information before action is taken. Officials did not specify what information they were waiting for.

The chief will decide what action to take once the internal affairs investigation is finalized.

According to the report by the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, an officer was driving through Sunnyside on Aug. 19 when a loose dog darted out in front of his car at about 2:30 a.m. and was seriously injured. The officer called Tewes for help, and when he showed up, the two decided that the dog should be euthanized.

But Tewes was concerned about using his gun in the neighborhood.

ENDING SUFFERING

Tewes later 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.

Tewes tried again and again 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 also didn't kill it. Eventually, after some 20 to 30 minutes of trying to kill the dog, he 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," the sheriff's office report stated.

He told investigators 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 in between two vehicles behind the police station and later stored in a freezer at the Humane Association. The owners didn't find out what had happened to their dog for five days after the event.

Treadway said it wasn't immediately clear to officials whether the dog owner had been notified or where the dog owner lived. A neighbor had approached Tewes while the dog was alive and pointed out the dog owner's home.

APOLOGY GIVEN

"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," Treadway said.

Treadway said that it was already departmental protocol for officers to contact either the animal control officer or the Humane Association shelter's 24-hour animal ambulance to deal with injured animals. But that had not been formalized in policy.

It was also policy to euthanize with either a sidearm or shotgun, depending on the animal. Additionally, Treadway said officers are required to inform the animal owner.

"There were numerous policy violations that we looked at as a part of our investigation," Treadway said. "This department has had a very clear policy for a number of years on the euthanization of wildlife."

A sheriff's office investigation into the incident showed that all the other officers and supervisors involved in the case were aware that an animal should only be killed with a firearm. The report also showed that most were not aware of all the options available to them, such as the Humane Association or contacting the animal control officer after hours.

Treadway said he has taken steps to educate his officers and changed department policy since the incident happened to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Within a week of the incident, the department had implemented a policy specifically addressing domesticated animals, and every officer was trained on the proper way to deal with such a situation.

Last week, employees from the Humane Association also trained officers on the services available to them.

"I can say that it's never happened in the 26 years I've been here," Treadway said. "I know this wasn't what I wanted our officers to do."

Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or ebetz@azdailysun.com.

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Sun. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. NJ
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    NJ - October 15, 2012 10:37 pm
    This comment is in reply to Jeffrey's. Officer Tewes told investigators he regulary clubbed animals to end their suffering. The scary part is, he seems to think this is the right thing to do. The chief of police admitted that there were numerous policy violations. Policy officers should know right from wrong. Obviously Officer Tewes does not and for this reason he should not be wearing a badge and even more importantly should not be carrying a gun.
  2. JEFFREY DORFMAN
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    JEFFREY DORFMAN - October 15, 2012 6:09 am
    To all those who commented before me: Nowhere in this article, did it say the officer would not be charged. It did say, there was not enough evidence to prosecute the officer at this time. If new evidence comes up, they will relook at filing charges. That said, how do they know exactly what the offending officer actually did. If it was his own testimony, then they certainly have a case right now. MORE TO FOLLOW ON NEXT COMMENT.
  3. crr
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    crr - October 13, 2012 7:46 am
    This is much more than a training issue. The gun carrying officer CHOSE to beat the dog to death without even trying to notify the owners and then after the fact, said he thought this was his only option. Really?? This is the only option for animals injured after hours? This shows a serious defect in his mental reasoning and judgment and no way should he be an officer who carrys a gun and badge.
  4. FlagRealist
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    FlagRealist - October 12, 2012 2:57 pm
    FPD has the worst train officers’. Cops that don't know department policy in a city and county were almost everyone has a dog. What about the other winter when FPD didn't know bicycles laws and tried to make a cyclist a criminal. Flagstaff has a lot of bicycles. FPD had to apologize on that incident too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMXkKtNG8ok
  5. JACK4LIFE
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    JACK4LIFE - October 12, 2012 3:57 am
    You people just need to calm down a little bit... you werent there to see what went on, you dont know the facts of the investigation the only thing you know is what is reported here. Until you ride the shoes of any Officer i would ask you withhold judgement. Now, with that said I know this Corprol will still get his punishment for policy violations which is appropriate but termination is far to excessive. Give the process a chance and calm down......
  6. ELundahl
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    ELundahl - October 11, 2012 1:33 pm
    Dogs are a big part of the Flagstaff community. I am sure if you check we have more dogs per capita than many small towns across the country for our size. We are a very dog friendly town...many shops in town allow dogs in. This officer was clearly not trained to deal with the situation he came upon. The death that the dog endured was brutal. I am heartbroken that the officer was not charged. But, what I hope is that the officer will get training in the future so he will never do this again.
  7. chickadee
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    chickadee - October 11, 2012 1:21 pm
    Shame on the Navajo County Attorney's Office, and shame on FPD if they don't terminate this officer's employment. To allow this behavior to go unpunished is unconscionable. The Navajo County Attorney's Office has made it clear that the crime of animal cruelty is of no concern to them, and anyone in this town can murder an animal and get away with it...most certainly a FPD officer. I have certainly lost all trust in the legal and law enforcement system in and around Flagstaff.
  8. davidsimms75
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    davidsimms75 - October 11, 2012 1:08 pm
    Sad day for Flagstaff. Everyone involved with the VIOLENT MURDER of this poor helpless dog has to lose their job. The universe will work this all out. The people involved will one day be held responsible for their actions one way or another.......
  9. RoRo
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    RoRo - October 11, 2012 12:39 pm
    This is a disgrace! It was not up to the officer to decide that the dog needed to be put to death. He is a police officer not a vet! If the dog had a licence and/or a ID tag, the owners should have been notified. And if a neighbor pointed to where the owner lived it could not have been very far. He should not have taken matters into his own hands and beat the poor animal to death. No animal should be beaten to death, especially someones family pet. This man needs professional help!
  10. 1Princess
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    1Princess - October 11, 2012 11:55 am
    I don't care what any official says, that was plain ANIMAL ABUSE. THAT OFFICER SHOULD BE TREATED JUST LIKE all ANIMAL ABUSERS ARE TREATED AND THEN MORE BECAUSE HE SHOULD KNOW BETTER. His statement makes him sound proud of what he did. That poor animal must have suffered extreme pain from this horrible cop. How does he treat the people he arrests?
  11. my2pennies
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    my2pennies - October 11, 2012 11:51 am
    "Insufficient evidence to persue".....and "....ensure it doesn't happen again" sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it?
  12. spiritflows
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    spiritflows - October 11, 2012 9:30 am
    Why didn't the officer go to the owners' house and turn this problem over to them? A neighbor told them right where the owners lived, and the owners were clearly at fault for allowing the dog to run free. It seems like the officer just wanted to kill, kill, kill. This whole case is totally disgusting and sickens me to the core. Obviously, the dog was not that close to death at all and very possibly could have been saved from the initial injuries, but obviously not, from local law enforcement.
  13. greatlakesgal
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    greatlakesgal - October 11, 2012 9:28 am
    Perhaps the dog was strong enough to survive being hit by a car, then? Hmm?
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