Lexington animal cruelty case sparks outrage; police call for public’s help to identify suspect
It began more than two weeks ago as a brief video posted via social-media site Snapchat. Those who saw it online and shared it with police called it “evil” and “sickening.”
The reason: an unidentified person using the camera on a smartphone to film himself or herself kicking and eventually throwing a dog down a steep flight of cement stairs at a Lexington apartment complex.
The dog today appears to be healthy and uninjured with no broken bones but remains under the protection of Lexington County Animal Control, said Lexington Police Cpl. Cameron Mortenson. The animal will remain in county custody for the foreseeable future until the the completion of the case and any court proceedings, he said.
Police are seeking the community’s help to identify the person in the video. Once identified and caught, the suspect faces a felony animal cruelty charge, Mortenson added.
The owner of the dog, identified by police Tuesday as Timothy Mister, is a resident at Lexington’s Cedarcrest Village Apartments, at 959 E. Main St., where the incident took place in mid-October.
Mister denies he had anything to do with the crime, Mortenson said in an interview.
Mister was issued a misdemeanor summons on Oct. 28 for maltreatment of an animal. After a search warrant was executed Oct. 16, Mister was told to seek treatment for his dog by a veterinarian, which is required by state law whenever there is a charge of animal abuse, according to Mortenson.
“He made no attempt at all to have the animal looked at,” Mortenson said.
On Oct. 16, the Lexington Police Department was notified through social media of a possible animal cruelty incident somewhere in Lexington.
The suspect’s Snapchat video had gone viral and was quickly shared by outraged viewers on the police department’s Facebook page, which Mortenson said has 13,799 followers.
“There was a flood of messages that were sent to our Facebook page, from locally to literally from around the world,” he said.
The person who originally posted the video used an alias, which continues to make it difficult for investigators to identify the suspect.
However, Mortenson said department officials were extremely grateful for those who reached out via Facebook and to whose initial information helped the department to pinpoint the location of the incident.
“This shows the importance of having a relationship with our social media followers,” he said. “And just like this whole case developed out of having that social-media following and having that access where people can share that information, we really hope that somebody comes forward and says, ‘I know who was in this video,’ and help us put the pieces of this puzzle together.”
Many who posted initial messages on Facebook were from the Lexington area and were able to determine that the location of the incident might be Cedarcrest Apartments.
With that information and the shared video and screen-grabs, police were able to narrow the location down to a specific group of buildings within the complex.
“And literally within 10 minutes they had made contact with the owner and found the dog,” Mortenson said. “Thankfully, there was a lot, visually, in the background of that video which helped officers narrow it down.”
Despite the abuse, Mortenson said the dog, which he laughingly described as a “little white puff of fur” was hyperactive and just “a great dog.”
“I’ve seen the dog since, and the dog’s super happy and friendly, and wants to play,” he said. “It just breaks your heart that something like this could happen.”
Mortenson said, criminal cases of animal cruelty are not routine in the area.
“But I would also say it is atypical that anyone would be so brazen to post videos of kicking a dog and kicking it down the steps, and picking it up and throwing it down the steps,” Mortenson said. “That shows a person with much disregard with animal life, and just really shows where that person is at mentally that they would do that.”
The Lexington Police Department and Lexington County Animal Control are actively seeking information regarding who committed these acts of animal cruelty. Anyone with information on the identity of this person or crime should contact the Lexington Police Department at (803) 359-6260, their local law enforcement agency, or Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME SC.