Dec 7, 2006 07:40 AM CST
A state grand jury has indicted two St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office deputies for allegedly shooting dogs to death during the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina.
The grand jury in Chalmette indicted Michael Minton and Clifford "Chip" Englande on the felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals. The indictments say the deputies "intentionally tortured and maimed numerous dogs, which were wandering the streets of St. Bernard Parish after Hurricane Katrina," and that their "actions resulted in the deaths of these animals."
Kris Wartelle, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Charles Foti, whose office investigated the case and will prosecute it, said the indictments are based in part on a videotape shot by a member of the Dallas media that shows deputies shooting dogs in the streets.
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack Stephens said Minton, 43, a sergeant who was hired in the spring of 1991, left the department in February. Englande, 34, a sergeant who also joined the department in the spring of 1991, has been assigned to administrative duties since the indictment, Stephens said.
Efforts to contact Englande and Minton on Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful.
"The allegations and the charges were disturbing from the onset," Stephens said. "We didn't want anyone to think we were covering up, so we formally referred the investigation over to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the state attorney general."
Stephens said he has not seen the video.
"We stand behind our deputies," Stephens said. "Their actions during and after the storm were heroic."
Stephens said sheriff's deputies and parish firefighters forced residents to leave their pets behind when they were evacuating people to safety.
"We are over a whole year from the event now," Stephens said. "Unless you were here, it's difficult to understand the dire circumstances we faced here."
After the indictments were handed down, Minton and Englande surrendered to authorities, and they were booked and released, said Col. Richard Baumy, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office. They were released to their wives on $10,000 personal surety bonds.
The indictments do not address reports that dogs were shot and killed in three schools after authorities forced the pets' owners to leave them behind during evacuations, Wartelle said. She said she couldn't comment further because the case is ongoing.
The owners of some of the dogs have filed suit in federal court in New Orleans against St. Bernard Parish government, Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez, the Parish Council, Stephens and numerous deputies.
Susan Michaels, co-founder of Pasado's Safe Haven, a national animal welfare organization that helped pet owners file the suit, said her group paid for necropsies on 33 dead dogs gathered at three schools.
"They weren't shot directly in the head where they would have been put out of their misery. The way they were shot indicated prolonged suffering," Michaels said of the dogs in the schools.
"These people scrawled messages on the walls, 'Please don't shoot my dogs.' They had plenty of food and water for the animals."
(The Times Picayune)
|This is such a bittersweet end to this story. Unfortunately I saw the photos of the aftermath and was horrified by them as were many other animal lovers around the world.
I'm glad there was some accountability for their actions although I don't think it can anyway make up for what they did.
Marianne and the boys
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