Sunday, March 12, 2017

Florida: In court, Johnnie Beveritt, 18, and Ryan Ponder, 23, deny they tortured a turtle to death and then - along with an unnamed 16-year-old -beat a disabled veteran who tried to stop them

FLORIDA -- Drama and finger-pointing ensued during Thursday's hearing for two of three suspects accused of beating a disabled veteran who tried to stop them from torturing and killing a defenseless turtle.


Johnnie Beveritt, 18, and Ryan Ponder, 23, pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated battery and animal cruelty.

"He never touched the turtle. Never touched the turtle. Never picked the turtle up above his head," Beveritt's mother, Lachar Montgomery, told WESH 2 News.

Montgomery claims the two men and a juvenile did not pummel and stomp a turtle at an apartment complex last month, but were instead using their feet to scoot the turtle back into a pond.

The mother claims that's when disabled veteran Garry Blough appeared, using racial slurs.

"The veteran grabbed him first because Johnnie told him, 'Look, you don't even know what's going on, get out of my face,'" Montgomery said.


But the victim, Blough, said the injuries he suffered tell a different story.

Blough went outside and said he saw a group of three men repeatedly abusing the animal, according to the police report.

"The one had [the turtle] over his head and he was smashing it down on the sidewalk," Blough said. "I asked them to please leave it alone, just let it go to the lake."

One of the men, later identified at Johnnie Beveritt, 18, picked up the turtle and threw it down on the sidewalk; the two other men, Ryan Ponder, 23 and a 16-year-old boy, kicked the turtle toward the apartment building away from the pond, the witness told police.

Blough told police that the turtle was trying to crawl away but was seriously injured and unable to walk.


He told his wife to call the police after the suspects did not stop attacking the animal, according to the report. After that, two of the suspects struck Blough with their hands, fists and feet.

"They started hitting the back of my head and started punching me. I was able to fend off a little bit but I mean three of them, got the better of me," he said.


Blough told them he did not want to fight, one of the attackers said “I don’t give a f—and I don’t care if I go to jail,” according to the arrest report.

The suspects continued to beat Blough until neighbors came out and the suspects ran away.

Animal-rights activists gathered outside the courtroom to support Blough, while inside, other veterans stood alongside the victim. VFW post Commander Jose said Blough once again proved his valor.


"Veterans stuck together at war. We don't leave anybody behind, and we're certainly not going to leave a veteran behind here," he said.

Family members of the accused, one of whom was so upset she sat down on the steps and refused to get up when the hearing ended, said the men do not belong behind bars and continue to question the victim's story.


The suspects remain behind bars on $15,000 bond.

(WESH - March 9, 2017)


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