INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Animal Care Services is currently assisting the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department with an investigation after four adults were charged in connection to a dog's death.
The Pit Bull Terrier named Deron had been adopted from Indianapolis Animal Care Services, the city's animal shelter.
Deron, age 2, came into the IACS on June 29 as an owner surrender, according to a source.
On Aug. 6, officers arrested two people, 20-year-old Sierra Makin and 19-year-old Zech Thomsen, after the incident happened in the 700 block of N Bosart Ave.
According to the probable cause affidavit, two witnesses called police to report a dog that was bleeding while being choked.
Police found Makin sweeping the front porch and Denita Hughes next to a bucket with water in it at the address.
Deron was later found dead in a trash bag with a leash wrapped tightly around his neck. He had several lacerations on his body.
The affidavit says when the officer later went up to the residence to ask Makin to come outside, she slammed the door shut. The officer reopened the door, grabbed her arm and told her to turn around. At that point, police say Makin punched the officer in the face. Later, Tomsen hit a second officer in the back of the head.
A witness later told police he saw the dog barking at Thomsen, who was holding a knife in his hand. The witness didn't see Thomsen stab the dog but did see him choke the dog and wrap the leash around the dog's neck.
Later, police say a doorbell camera video captured Thomsen saying "where the knife at, someone go get me a knife?" and "I am going to put that dog down."
A second man, Clifford Massey, is seen helping Thomsen carry the dog to the trash can and putting it inside.
According to the affidavit, Thomsen adopted Deron. On the same day, Massey began fostering King.
On Thursday, IMPD and IACS said King was missing, but he was found and is safe at IACS as of Thursday night.
Thomsen faces charges of Torturing or Mutilating a Vertebrate Animal, Battery Against A Public Safety Official, Obstruction of Justice, and Resisting Law Enforcement.
Massey faces charges of torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal and obstruction of justice, while Hughes faces an obstruction of justice charge. Both were arrested Thursday, according to IMPD.
Makin is charges with battery resulting in bodily injury to a public safety official, obstruction of justice and resisting law enforcement.
The Marion County Prosecutor's Office filed motions asking the court to increase bond for all four. Court documents charge the four with obstruction of justice because "On or about August 6, 2022, Clifford Massey, Zech Thomsen, Sierra Makin and Denitra Hughes did remove a dog carcass and/or blood with the intent to prevent said item(s) from being used as evidence in a criminal investigation."
In Indiana, the animal torture charge is a level 6 felony, which is the lowest level felony and has a maximum sentence of 2.5 years. Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears tells WRTV that's the highest charge they have available to charge someone in cases involving animals.
"Just in my conversations with people in the community, there's a number of people in Marion County who feel the same way that the penalties should reflect the conduct. And when you look at the allegations, and then you look at what the potential charges, I think people are surprised that there's not a stiffer or greater penalty," Mears said. "I want everybody in the community to know that we're going to pursue justice on behalf of this animal. We want justice for Deron."
Mears says in filing the charges against the four individuals, his office wanted to make sure everyone who participated in the events leading to Deron's death are held responsible.
"This was a community case. This was a community investigation where people in the community affirmatively responded, quickly responded, notified law enforcement ... and giving us the evidence that we needed to be in a position to file the case," Mears said. "This is very much a reflection of the community coming together to want to stand up and help protect these animals."
The Chief Communications Officer of Indianapolis Animal Care Services Brandi Paul released the following statement:
“We are heartbroken over this situation, and we are supporting IMPD with their investigation. Our staff and volunteers are truly invested in the care and well-being of all of our animals. It is always our goal that when animals are adopted they go to loving forever homes. Prior to any animal leaving our building staff checks each adopter or foster to see if they have a history of animal-related violations, the party (or parties) involved in this situation did not have a history with ACS.”