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Thursday, Sep 1, 2005County: Saint Bernard
Charges: Felony CTA
Case Images: 6 files available
Persons of Interest:
» Mike Minton - Alleged
» Clifford Englande - Alleged
Case Updates: 5 update(s) available
Despite pleas from dog owners in writing scrawled across the walls of a middle school, fourteen dogs, left by their owners in hopes of returning to them, were slaughtered, shot in the body cavity, forcing the dogs to suffer a prolonged death. All were found dead at Beauregard Middle School in St. Bernard Parish, New Orleans.
Pasado's Safe haven is offering a $10,000 reward for information on the shooter(s).
For a complete case history, visit Pasado's Safe Haven website.
|Citing insufficient evidence, new state Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell has dropped animal cruelty charges against two men accused of killing stray dogs while working for the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina. |
Michael Minton, 44, a former sheriff's deputy, and Clifford "Chip" Englande, 36, a sergeant who has been on desk duty for more than a year, were indicted on charges of aggravated animal cruelty in November 2006.
A state grand jury concluded they fatally shot "numerous dogs" that had been abandoned by their owners and were roaming the streets after Katrina swamped the parish.
The indictments, which were obtained by Caldwell's predecessor, Charles Foti, were partially based on jerky video shot by a Texas photojournalist that shows a black Labrador lying mortally wounded on a Violet street as two civilian vehicles commandeered by the Sheriff's Office drive past.
Shootings not shown
Minton was accused of shooting the dog while standing in the back of a Jeep driven by Englande, according to court records. But the recording does not show the dog being shot, and Caldwell, who was sworn in Jan. 14, dismissed the charges in a pair of letters filed Tuesday in 34th Judicial District Court in Chalmette.
"Despite the existence of probable cause for arrest and sufficient evidence for a grand jury indictment, considering all the facts and circumstances in this matter there is insufficient evidence to prove the guilt of the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt," said the letters signed by Assistant Attorney General Dana Cummings.
A spokeswoman for Caldwell declined Thursday to elaborate on his reasons for dropping the charges.
Englande, who joined the Sheriff's Office in 1991 and was assigned to administrative duties after his indictment, referred questions to his attorney, Pat Fanning, who said Englande was misidentified as the driver of the Jeep.
"There is not a lick of evidence that my client killed any dogs," Fanning said. "These guys never should have been prosecuted. I'm just glad the new attorney general gave the case a fair review and determined the right outcome."
Minton, who left the Sheriff's Office in February 2006, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Sheriff praises development
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack Stephens said the decision to drop the charges exonerates his department, as well as the two men.
"I'm happy for the two officers involved. They have been under a great deal of heartache and pressure," Stephens said. "I also want to reiterate how proud I am of the way we responded to the greatest disaster in our country's history."
Stephens said Englande will immediately be reinstated to full duty.
The dismissed charges mark the third time a Katrina-related criminal case initiated by Foti has fizzled.
In July, a grand jury refused to indict Dr. Anna Pou on second-degree murder charges stemming from the death of patients at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. And in September, a jury found Sal and Mabel Mangano innocent of negligent homicide charges in the deaths of 35 elderly residents who drowned during Katrina's aftermath at the couple's flooded nursing home in St. Bernard Parish.
Foti, whose office investigated both cases and prosecuted the Manganos, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Minton's trial had been scheduled to start Tuesday, with Englande's to follow Feb. 14. The felony charges carried penalties of up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.
'This place has gone crazy'
Court documents indicate prosecutors with the attorney general's office under Foti, who lost his re-election bid in the October primary, had planned to show the jury a video shot by David Leeson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for The Dallas Morning News who once worked for The Times-Picayune.
The recording, which can be viewed at www.dallasnews.com/s/dws/photography/2005/katrina_video/straydogs.html, includes the sound of a gunshot as the camera pans to a black Lab lying in the middle of the street. The dog yelps and tries to get up as a pickup and Jeep spray painted to indicate they had been seized by the Sheriff's Office drive away.
"They just killed that dog, man," Leeson says on the recording. "This place has gone crazy."
Moments later, another gunshot can be heard, and Leeson says, "They shot that one, too."
In a subsequent interview recorded by Leeson, Minton acknowledged shooting dogs, citing safety and humanitarian concerns.
"It's better for that dog, really. Where's he going to find food? Where's he going to find water?" Minton says on the recording. "We're doing it to protect ourselves, but it's more humane for the dog."
Later in the interview, Leeson asks Minton, "So how many dogs?"
"Enough," Minton replies.
Susan Michaels, co-founder of Pasado's Safe Haven, an animal welfare group in Sultan, Wash., that organized scores of volunteers to rescue pets after Katrina, said she is "appalled" that the charges were dropped.
"There couldn't have been a better case," she said. "You have an admission from Minton, a videotape of the shootings, as well as statements from eyewitnesses. It's just amazing that this is not being pursued."
The charges against Minton and Englande focused on the black Lab and a pit bull puppy and did not address reports that about three dozen dogs were shot and killed in three St. Bernard schools after authorities forced the pets' owners to leave them behind during post-Katrina evacuations.
The owners of some of the dogs have filed suit in federal court in New Orleans against the St. Bernard government, former Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez, the Parish Council, Stephens and numerous deputies.
Michaels, whose organization helped the pet owners file the suit, said the slain dogs were friendly and posed no danger.
"These animals were not packs of wild dogs," she said. "They were people's pets."
Tammi Arender Herring, Caldwell's director of communications, said authorities had legitimate concerns that stray dogs could spread diseases. But she expressed sympathy for St. Bernard residents who lost their pets.
"It's a very unfortunate incident, and we're saddened that it happened," she said. "But from a legal angle, there was not sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."
|Source: nola.com - Jan 24, 2008|
Update posted on Oct 27, 2010 - 8:33PM
|A St. Bernard Parish sheriff's deputy and a former deputy are set to stand trial separately early next year on felony aggravated cruelty to animals charges stemming from the alleged fatal shooting of dogs on the streets of St. Bernard in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina.|
Clifford "Chip'' Englande, a sergeant assigned to administrative duties, and Michael Minton, who is no longer working for the Sheriff's Office, pleaded innocent in February and were scheduled to be tried together this week.
As it stands now, Minton will be tried Jan. 29 by a jury in state District Judge Robert Buckley's courtroom and Englande will be tried Feb. 14 by the judge, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Charles Foti said Wednesday.
The Attorney General's Office is handling the prosecution of the case, which is being followed closely by animal welfare advocates such as Pasado's Safe Haven in Washington state.
The charges carry up to 10 years in prison.
Minton and Englande claim the dogs were suffering and a threat to police.
Prosecutors counter that the deputies' behavior amounted to cruelty.
A Dallas Morning News photographer captured the shootings on videotape and interviewed Minton.
On the tape, which was turned over to Attorney General's Office investigators, Minton said, "Really, it's better for that dog, really. Because, you know, where is he going to find food? Where is he going to find water? It's more humane for the dog.''
The indictment handed down against Englande and Minton by a St. Bernard grand jury in November 2006 alleges that the deputies intentionally tortured and maimed numerous dogs that were left behind in the streets of St. Bernard after the storm.
Pet owners filed a federal civil lawsuit against the parish, Sheriff's Office and nearly 20 deputies in October 2006 in connection with the post-Katrina discovery of the bullet-riddled bodies of 33 dogs and cats at three St. Bernard schools. The pets had been left in the care of St. Bernard sheriff's officers by evacuees.
The Attorney General's Office is investigating those deaths.
|Source: 2theadvocate.com - Nov 8, 2007|
Update posted on Nov 8, 2007 - 12:23PM
|The trial of two men accused of shooting dogs in St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Katrina while working for the Sheriff's Office has been pushed back to November. |
The trial for Michael Minton, who is no longer working for the Sheriff's Office, and Clifford "Chip'' Englande, a sergeant currently assigned to administrative duties, had been set to begin Tuesday in state District Court in Chalmette.
Minton, 43, and Englande, 35, were indicted last year on felony animal cruelty charges. Both have pleaded innocent.
The men are accused of shooting dogs that had been abandoned by their owners who evacuated after the parish suffered massive flooding during and after the hurricane.
A spokeswoman for state District Judge Robert Buckley said the judge granted a request by the state Attorney General's office, which is prosecuting the case, to postpone the start of trial.
The trial is now slated to begin Nov. 6 in Chalmette.
|Source: NOLA.com - May 7, 2007|
Update posted on May 9, 2007 - 12:35PM
|A current St. Bernard Parish sheriff's deputy and a former deputy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges of aggravated cruelty to animals in a case dating back to Hurricane Katrina.|
Michael Minton, who has since left the Sheriff's Office, and Clifford "Chip" Englande, a sergeant who has since been assigned to administrative duties, did not appear in state District Court. Their attorneys entered their pleas before Judge Wayne Cresap.
The two men are accused of shooting dogs in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina.
Trial has been set for May 8.
Animals rights activists gathered outside the courthouse, some holding signs with slogans such as "Jail time for animal cruelty." Other animal rights activists sat in on the proceeding.
A state grand jury indicted Minton and Englande last December. The state Attorney General's office investigated and will prosecute the case.
Jeremy Lee, Minton's attorney, said his client only shot dogs that were dangerous. Lee said Minton and Englande were good deputies trying to protect the welfare of citizens.
Pat Fanning, Englande's attorney, declined to comment.
Minton and Englande are currently free each on $10,000 personal surety bonds.
|Source: Nola.Com - Feb 14, 2007|
Update posted on Feb 15, 2007 - 4:48AM
|A Grand Jury has indicted St. Bernard Sheriff's Officers in the street shootings of dogs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.|
According to Mimi Hunley, Asst. State Attorney General, Louisiana:
"The Grand Jury in St. Bernard Parish on Wednesday indicted former Deputy Mike Minton and presently employed Deputy Chip England for aggravated cruelty to animals related to the street shootings after Katrina. This is a felony and was the most serious of all the crimes they could have indicted them for. AAG Julie Cullen and I handled the presentation. We are still working on the school shootings. " -- Mimi Hunley, Assistant Attorney General Criminal Division
Pasado's Safe Haven discovered 33 dogs and cats massacred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in St. Bernard schools and provided investigators the cost of necropsies (animal autopsies) on all 33 animals (costing $7700) and shot DV videotape of the dead animals as part of an Louisiana State Attorney General investigation in the school shootings.
|Source: Pasado's Safe Haven - Dec 2, 2006|
Update posted on Dec 2, 2006 - 12:32PM
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