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.
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.
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.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.