Eyewitness: Officer used baton, boot on injured dog

August 28, 2012 4:00 pm • By ERIC BETZ Sun staff reporter

A Flagstaff police officer repeatedly struck an injured Sunnyside dog with a baton and stomped its head with his boot, according to an eyewitness who watched the incident at about 2:30 a.m. on August 19.

Police officials say an officer hit the loose dog with his patrol car when the animal darted out from behind a parked vehicle. However, the methods that the officer’s supervisor used to euthanize the dog have since come under scrutiny, triggering parallel criminal and internal affairs investigations.

Police Chief Kevin Treadway confirmed that Corporal John Tewes had been placed on administrative leave the day after the incident after another police supervisor brought the incident to light.

The Sunnyside resident, who has been interviewed by police, asked to remain anonymous to avoid the public attention that would arise from being identified. She says she watched the entire incident from her window as the injured dog was spotlighted in the street.

The woman told the Daily Sun that she and her husband heard their own dogs howling at about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19, and saw flashing lights outside.

Her husband went outside and saw their neighbor’s dog had been hit by a car and was sprawled out in the street. The witness said the dog couldn’t walk and was bleeding from its eyes and nose.

When the husband tried to tell the officer that the dog belonged to his neighbor and pointed to the home, he was told to go back inside.

“OK, sir. We’ll take care of it. Just go back to your house,” the police told her husband, according to the witness

Police officials told the Daily Sun the following Friday, Aug. 24, that they were unaware who owned the dog.

The woman said that the officer who hit the dog waited in the street with the animal for about 10 minutes until the second officer, later confirmed as Cpl. Tewes, showed up on scene.

The pair waited for another 10 to 15 minutes before the officers apparently attempted to euthanize the dog without using a firearm.

Police officials have said the officers did not want to use their firearms for public safety reasons.

The woman said she watched the supervisor extend his baton and then strike the dog in the head. She says she had to turn her head and look away, but continued to hear the thumping as the metal club impacted its skull.

“I saw him extend the baton and he raised it up and he struck the dog in the forehead,” the witness said.

“You could just hear the dog and then the dog got quiet,” she added. The dog started yelping again when the officer returned several minutes later and poked at it with the baton, she says.

More time went by and the officer placed his boot on the dog’s head and stood on it, then stomped down, apparently attempting to crush its skull.

The officer waited several more moments and then hit it with a baton, according to the witness.

“I turned my head and said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe he just did that,” the witness said. “I don’t know what he was thinking.”

Eventually, the witness said she watched the officer grab the dog by a leg and drag it to the patrol car.

The couple assumed that the police department would have notified the dog owners and were nervous to talk to them about it all last week.

When the witness saw the story in the Daily Sun on Saturday, she approached police her neighbors.

The dog owner told the witness that she and her family spent all week trying to find their dog and eventually were asked to identify its body at the Coconino Humane Association. A police investigator came and told them what happened to their dog on Friday.

Police officials declined to confirm any details of the witness’ account, citing the ongoing investigation.

Soon after the investigations were launched, police officials learned that Tewes might have also separately made threats against his ex-wife. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating potential criminal charges for animal abuse and making threats.

Police officials told the Daily Sun last week that they would not elaborate on how the animal was killed, other than that a firearm was not used.

“This case is under both an administrative and criminal investigation,” Treadway said when asked today about the witness’ account. “A police officer or any other member of this community is entitled to due process and I’m prohibited by law from releasing information while this investigation is under way.”

However, Treadway says he’s personally been in contact with the dog owners and expressed the police department’s condolences.

“As the chief I want to assure the community that we are taking this situation very seriously and I will commit to … the community that once this investigation is complete we will share the entire investigation,” Treadway said.