PHOENIX - Jessie Garcia was out with his family last Sunday when they pulled into the driveway and saw several people standing around their dog. Their beloved pit bull, Beau, was lying on the front porch with blood all around.
“There was blood around her head and her side was mostly skin and flesh,” said Garcia.
Just a few minutes earlier, Beau was hit by two cars trying to cross the road. The dog was able to make it to the front porch before collapsing.
What Garcia would soon find out is that his neighbor, Ivan Lawrence, took a sledgehammer and hit Beau in the back of the head two times after she was run over by the cars.
“That was not his choice," Garcia said. "It’s not his dog."
According to Garcia, another neighbor wanted to take Beau to a nearby veterinarian but Lawrence decided the dog was in extreme pain so he killed her.
Police officers responded to the scene, questioning witnesses and Lawrence.
“We take a look at the fact and the circumstances," Phoenix police Sgt. Vince Lewis said. "Given the totality of those facts and circumstances we then compare it to the law."
Responding officers decided to write a report but determined no law was broken.
“I was kind of confused,” said Garcia.
12 News decided to verify the decision officers made by looking into the law. We first pulled state statute ARS 13-2910, which covers cruelty to animals. A person commits cruelty to animals if the person does any of the following: (5) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly kills any animal under the custody or control of another person without either legal privilege or consent of the owner.
Phoenix police told 12 News a decision was made to re-examine the case. Animal cruelty detectives re-interviewed Garcia, witnesses and Lawrence.
“Once experts took a second look they determined there was probable cause to arrest the suspect,” said Sgt. Lewis.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Ivan Lawrence was arrested on charges of cruelty to an animal.
According to court documents, Lawrence admitted he euthanized the dog as a mercy killing but said it was reckless.
He claimed he was in the National Guard and an ex-athlete which would allow him to know when the dog needed to be killed.
He told police he hit the dog with the sledgehammer using a “golf-swing type hit" because the dog was flopping around with her head only and whimpering, according to court records.
Records also say, he told police hitting the dog in the back of the neck would take out nerves and eliminate the dog’s pain. He compared his actions to the same manner in which cattle are butchered. However, Lawrence admitted he’d object to someone doing what he did to his own pet.
Lawrence said his wife told him to get the hammer and he went home after killing the dog without calling police or talking to the family, according to court papers.
Lawrence appeared in court Thursday where a judge ruled he could no longer have any contact with animals.
“I was relieved,” Garcia said about Lawrence's arrest.
The bottom line: 12 News verified, if you kill an animal that is not yours, you can be charged with a crime.