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Tuesday, May 22, 2007County: Alameda
Suspect(s) Unknown - We need your help!
As the reward fund to capture the person who shot and killed 15 young goats this week swelled to more than $21,000, some folks wondered whether the grisly event might be a prelude to other violent crimes.
The 15 adolescent goats were part of a herd of 3,000 clearing brush near King Estates recreation area. They were separated from the herd in a temporary corral about 200 feet up the hill from Howard Elementary School when they were killed sometime after midnight May 22 with what police believe is a .22 caliber weapon.
By the time a jogger saw them later in the morning, wild animals had gnawed on the carcasses, which made it look as though the killer had mutilated or decapitated the goats.
The reports outraged animal welfare workers and sent shivers through nearby residents who welcomed the goats and the service they provide.
Several studies have made the link between animal cruelty and human violence and abuse. Sgt. Dave Cronin, chief of Oakland's Animal Services, agrees that one very sick person is responsible, and hopes the growing reward money will shake somebody to turn him or her in to police.
"This is someone who has a problem," Cronin said. "This is a violent person, and they are likely to do other weird things. We need to find this person."
Cronin said he believes the goat killer is a young man who lives nearby and is familiar with the area.
The goats were killed after midnight, and it is not the kind of place people just drive by. It's very dark there and someone would have had to walk to the pen and know where they were going, Cronin said.
"We appreciate the outrage (over the killings) and want it to continue," Cronin said. "I think everyone sees the dangers of letting these types of cases slip through the cracks. We end up seeing these people three or four years later in custody for sexual assault and other crimes.
"There is lots of anecdotal evidence that it leads to other violence," he said.
Actually, more than anecdotal evidence suggests a link between animal cruelty and later violence against humans. According to a 1997 report by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, nearly 40 percent of animal abusers also had committed violent crimes against people.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the FBI considers previous animal abuse as a factor when profiling serial killers.
Notorious serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy both abused and mutilated animals. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two students responsible for the Columbine High School massacre, told others they mutilated animals.
Terri Oyarzun, owner of Goats R Us, a different herding operation based in Orinda with 6,500 goats spread among many sites, said she was frightened to know that kind of violence is happening right next door.
She has herders with all her goats and she has asked her clients to step up supervision of the areas where her goats are grazing.
"It's very fortunate that it didn't come down to a conflict with people," she said. "What would have happened if a herder had come up and said, 'Stop'? It's just so very, very sad and senseless.
"What has happened to make the world such a crazy place?"
Oyarzun said that churches have held meetings and said prayers for the goats. She said the goats' owner wants the person responsible to get help, which Oyarzun said is OK as long as the help comes behind bars.
"It's a felony. It comes with jail time," she said. "A similar incident happened in Merced a few years ago. Someone went into a yard and killed three goats. They went to jail for a decent period of time."
Cronin said the suspect could face several felony charges, depending on their criminal history. He said he has gone door to door and cased the scene at night in case the person comes back. He thinks it's just a matter of time before the person brags about the killings to somebody.
So far, $21,000 has been contributed to a reward fund to capture the goat killer.
Cronin started it with $250, which was matched by $250 from the Friends of Oakland Animal Services and quickly upped by the East Bay SPCA with a $5,000 contribution.
Voices for Pets in Walnut Creek contributed $4,000, In Defense of Animals contributed $2,500, the Humane Society of the United States contributed $2,500 and Jill Posener, a photographer and animal welfare activist, so far has collected $6,500 for the reward fund.
"Even without the link between animal abuse and human violence, it takes a lack of empathy to be able to kill baby goats, one right after the other," Posener said. "This person is a dangerous human being. It's important we just don't accept this."
Anyone with information about the killings should call Oakland Animal Services at 535-5640.
If you have information on this case, please contact:
Oakland Animal Services
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