ARIZONA -- Police say a Phoenix man went too far after he claimed he was trying to end a dog's suffering after it was hit by a car.
At least one witness told police that Ivan Lawrence, 49, got a sledgehammer and beat a neighbor's dog twice in the head in front of multiple people, including children, after they tried to persuade him not to, according to the Phoenix Police Department.
Lawrence is facing charges of felony animal abuse and failing to render aid. He was being held Thursday in a Maricopa County jail in lieu of a $2,000 bond.
He told police that killing the dog was a mercy because it was obviously in pain.
Family dog strayed from property
The owners of the dog, a 3-year-old pit bill named Beau, were not home when Beau and another family dog strayed from their property near 37th and Oak streets on Sunday. Only Beau had been hit by a car and appeared to be struck by a second vehicle by the time he exited the roadway, limping.
Beau's owner, Kym Jesus-Garcia, said she was told that the family's other dog helped Beau to the front porch.
Neighbors gathered, and at least one witness told police that they were planning to take the injured animal to a 24-hour medical clinic. Jesus-Garcia said neighbors needed help getting the heavy dog into a vehicle, so a neighbor went inside her home to retrieve her husband, suggesting he could help.
It was then that Lawrence came out of his house with a 3-foot-long sledgehammer, according to police.
Jesus-Garcia said five to six people claimed to have been in the front yard during the incident. Police said witnesses argued with Lawrence for about 10 minutes to try and dissuade him from killing the dog, according to court documents. Witnesses reported that the dog was not whining and there wasn't much blood, records show.
"She wasn't dead," Jesus Garcia said. "She probably (had) some internal injuries because she wasn't even bleeding. She wasn't bleeding at all."
Lawrence told police he was in the National Guard and an ex-athlete, which let him know that the dog needed to be killed, according to the court document.
Police say he eventually made an intimidating motion with the hammer, and witnesses stepped out of the way. He struck the dog in the head once and it yelped, records show. He then struck it again.
"It was disturbing because the kids were there," Phoenix police Sgt. Vince Lewis said. "He was swinging the hammer, and at one point threatened to use a gun."
Lawrence was identified in a police lineup by a 10-year-old who witnessed the dog's death, according to court documents. Records also say the child has had "crying episodes and nightmares" since.
'Justice for Beau'
Jesus-Garcia said the family returned home to find their beloved dog lying in front of their house in a pool of blood. She added that the family is pressing charges against Lawrence due to the manner and treatment of the dog's death.
"I feel some relief knowing something's going to happen," Jesus-Garcia said. "Justice for Beau."
Lawrence told police that he was simply putting the dog out of its misery; however, he conceded that it was a "reckless manner" and he wouldn't want someone doing that if it happened to his own pet, according to documents.
Lewis said the dog walked off the road but was still in pain. He wasn’t sure if the dog would have survived if she hadn’t been hit with the sledgehammer. Phoenix Police Animal Cruelty detectives received information after Beau had been buried and wasn't able to examine her.
What to do with injured animals
The Arizona Humane Society said in an email that people who find injured or stray animals can call the Humane Society's field dispatch team at 602-997-7585 Ext. 2073, and the dispatchers will send out emergency animal medical technicians to the scene.
If it's after-hours, people can take animals into 24-7 emergency clinics throughout the Phoenix area. The Humane Society picks up animals each day from such clinics and takes them to their own "animal trauma hospital."
A Humane Society spokeswoman said taking one of these routes can reunite an injured animal with its owner, or put a stray onto the adoption floor when healed and potentially find it a home.
"We were absolutely heartbroken to hear about this story," said Bretta Nelson, a Humane Society spokeswoman. "Our hearts go out to the family who lost their best friend in such a horrific manner."
Full Name: Ivan Erick Lawrence
Weight: 170 lbs
Hair Color: BROWN
Eye Color: GREEN
Arrest Date: 04/19/2017
Arrest Agency: Maricopa County, Arizona
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(AZ Central - April 20, 2017)