The sheriff’s office of Wilson County, Texas is being defined as “unprofessional,” “unethical,” and “illegal” by the prominent animal rights attorney representing the owner of Toby, the dog killed by a neighbor in Texas last month.
“This is an unfortunate series of events that has led from one small fudging of an unprofessional way of handling his (deputy's) job to snowballing into an enormous unethical and illegal cover-up,” San Antonio attorney Robyn Katz said in response to a Wilson County New newspaper article covering the story with quotes from an official investigator. “The Sheriff's Office is charged to do their job and role--which is investigate and present the file to the DA's Office.”
When Sheriff Joe Tackitt assigned two primary investigators on the case, the Examiner began receiving communication on May 5, 2014 from citizens of Wilson County suggesting the dog killing might not be taken seriously by the Sheriff’s Office or the County District Attorney’s office. The story then grew globally as people from around the world learned of the killing and expressed their anger and concern through social media and online petitions. Toby was rescued in Afghanistan and became a symbol of comfort and happiness for thousands of U.S. soldiers and animal lovers who worked to bring the once starving dog to the loving home in Texas.
Tackitt, the long-time sheriff and a life-long resident of Wilson County, assigned investigators Steve Moore and Richard Nichols to handle the case.
Attorney Katz, who worked as an animal welfare nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., stepped up to help the family of Rachel Ries, who lost their dog by the gunfire of neighbor Michael Coulter on April 12, 2014.
According to the local newspaper, the local sheriff’s investigator is claiming evidence shows that Toby was killed because of self-defense. In the meantime, according to the article, Coulter reportedly hired an attorney and has received harassing calls at his “place of employment.”
“When a case is due to be presented to the Grand Jury, it is of the UTMOST important for the authorities to remain unbiased,” Katz continued. “While it was clear that the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office was biased in the beginning, this circus act of telling the public their ‘legal theory’ on the case is disgusting and shameful--a slap in the face to other law enforcement officials who do their jobs well and ethically.”
Katz was straightforward with her response to the sheriff’s office handling of the killing.
“Absolutely no investigative authority, in a pending case, should be releasing any information or opinions to the public,” explained Katz. “First, they are not attorneys and making legal arguments as an authoritative branch can get them in trouble for the illegal practice of law.”
“Second, knowing a grand jury may see this case, they are aiming to successfully taint every Wilson County resident who sees this article,” Katz clarified. “The Grand Jury should be unbiased, and look at facts.”
“As an officer of the court and former prosecutor myself, I was physically there when Investigator Moore interviewed Rachel, personally sent the necropsy results and pathology report to both Investigator Moore and Prosecutor Audrey Louis, and also have the recorded statement (that the Wilson County Sherriff’s Office took) of one of the witnesses regarding the event,” Katz detailed.
“I am sickened to think, having a wonderful relationship with San Antonio Police Department and the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, that law enforcement would make it a goal to be the jury in this case and divulge absolutely false and deceptive statements to the public.”
“They should, and will, be held responsible for this,” Katz said of the Sheriff’s Office. “Every resident of this county should be scared out of his or her mind that these are the people who are running that county.”
“And you know what,” she asked? “It could very well be someone else as a victim next time.”
“That county makes Texas look like a backwards western movie where the Sheriff is sleeping with the Prosecutor, who is also married to the deputy who took the report, all the while tumbleweed blows through the town,” Katz describe. “Either that, or some sort of a Lifetime Movie.”
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The original report from the Wilson County Sheriff Department was brief.
“When I approached him and asked him why he shot our dog, he completely denied it,” Ries recalled. “But he finally admitted he killed Toby when the deputy arrived and started asking him questions.”
Toby in the United States
"I personally spoke to the responding deputy. He stated to me that Mr. Coulter admitted to having 1 beer, but he had felt he may have had a few more than that because he could smell it. I then explained Toby’s training to the Deputy. He stat...ed that he felt that Mr. Coulter may not have made the best judgment call." --Meredith Festa, President Paws Unite People, NY
Toby playing in backyard
"The forensic evidence is always the source you use to find the truth when you have two different stories," Festa, President of Paws Unite People in New York stated. "This is an outrage. Speaking to a local paper and not calling Rachel directly is unethical and tainting grand jurors with their false statements. I call BS."
Attorney Robyn Katz earned her degrees from the following: Texas Tech University School of Law, Lubbock, Texas J.D. 2010, University of Texas, Austin, Texas M.Ed. 2004, and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan B.S. 2003.
Sheriff Joe Tackitt, Jr.
Local television stations and the Examiner reported witnesses discussed two shots were fired with the second shot being the fatal one. In the local newspaper account the investigator was quoted discussing about allegations of three shots from his investigation.
Justice for Toby sign in La Vernia, TX
"He told me that Mr. Coulter had stated Toby was chasing his cats. How that conversation translates to Mr. Coulter was defending himself and was sober is beyond me. Especially since the Necropsy report states that Toby was facing away from the shooter. At no time did the Deputy ever say anything about Mr. Coulter defending himself. He only said to get a Necropsy report done so forensic evidence could tell the story." --Meredith Festa
Toby with solders
"Based on the evidence report shows, the story that Toby was near the shooter is impossible… that is just physics," said Festa."Toby was trained and socialized to love and respect people. He has never been anything other than docile and loving. Toby was the gentlest dog we have ever met. He has been all over the world, and has met hundreds of people. He was trained to do nothing but be a comfort and a source of love to others."
Toby with boys in yard
"I had spoken to Rachel about Mr. Coulter peeking in her window and saying her dogs were loose, and the entire time they were in her house," said Festa. "This is a simple case of blame the outsider. Rachel is a Active member of the Texas National Guard. She is not an outsider."
La Vernia, Texas
The concerns of many residents of the small town of La Vernia, a community 30 minutes southeast of San Antonio, Texas, seem to be inevitable as apprehensions about the investigation of the killing of Toby, the hero dog shot by a neighbor in April, lingers.