From Dallas News Video
St. Bernard Parish is home to an unknown number of dogs left behind in the Katrina exodus. Dallas News photojournalist David Leeson has covered Katrina's aftermath…
Sgt. Andrew McRae tells Dallas News reporters: "Unfortunately a lot of people's pets are wandering around here. We're trying to gather them up, give them food and water till [rescue groups get them].
"They're shooting 'em three blocks down," a reporter says. "Not us," Sgt. McRae replies.
Reporters are next seen in their truck as a dog who looks like a gold lab mix crosses their path. We see another vehicle approach, with two armed men.
"They just killed that dog man," one reporter says [about a gold lab they'd just seen]. "This place has gone crazy," reporter Leeson mutters. "They followed him all the way up and shot him."
We hear a gun shot. One reporter says: "They shot that one too [referring to a different dog]." The video cuts to an interview with Sheriff Mike Minton, who says: "This is really better for that dog. Where's he gonna find food? It's more humane for that dog."
A reporter asks: "So how many dogs [have you shot]?" Minton looks away, laughs: "Enough."
Slaughter In The Streets One day. Reporters happened to be there. How many more days, more animals? Left behind. Looking for a familiar face. A scrap of food. A kind voice. Shot dead. Case dismissed. Killers walk.
Clarification: Two Cases, One Sheriff's Office
2005 ~ Street Shootings
Dallas Morning News photojournalist David Leeson witnessed St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's officers shooting Katrina-displaced animals. In 2008 all charges against former deputy sheriff Mike Minton and sergeant Clifford "Chip" Englande were dismissed for "lack of substantial evidence." Kinship Circle contacted the Louisiana Attorney General and Asst. State Attorney General behind the original charges, to determine if a public pressure campaign could stir further action against SBP murderers.
2005 ~ School Shootings
The killing of companion animals occurred inside four St. Bernard Parish schools. Floodwaters forced people to take refuge at the schools. Further evacuation orders forbid them to take animals. Many scratched notes on walls: There is a very nice dog in here. Please do not shoot her. Her name is Angel… Despite presence of food, water, collars, ID tags, and contact information — some 33 dogs (with cats among victims) were shot in the body cavity, arms, neck, and hindquarters to cause extreme, prolonged suffering. As of Jan 2008, the case involving massacre of animals inside St. Bernard Parish schools was open.
Dogs Gunned Down, Case Dismissed?
Known As Of 1/20/08 ~ Mimi Hunley, Louisiana Asst. State Attorney General, whose division pursued leads in street and school shootings, spoke with a volunteer rescuer who has followed the case closely. On 1/18/08, Hunley informed our contact that charges against former deputy sheriff Mike Minton and sergeant Clifford "Chip" Englande are dismissed due to lack of substantial evidence.
While this seems impossible, due to a Dallas News team video that shows Minton firing a gun — the camera never shows a bullet actually entering the dog. Still, Sgt. Minton admits to reporters that he regularly shot dogs wandering in Katrina's rubble. In addition, no one has ever stepped forth to claim the dogs or prosecute their killers.
Hunley expressed extreme disappointment and mentioned that dismissal was the call of new district attorneys who reviewed evidence. Hunley's criminal division is still gathering evidence in the SBP school shootings, with new leads trickling in.
But in this grotesque miscarriage of justice, most windup "dead-ends."
Slaughter At Schools Cruelty investigator Mark Steinway reported: "Dogs were not shot in the head to quickly bring death. Shooting an animal's body cavity is one of the most cruel ways to kill."
Angel Girl's Story John Bozes, Senate Hearing Testimonial ~ My name is John Bozes. I am a former resident of St. Bernard Parish and I am here to ask you to pass the Pet Evacuation Bill so that when there is another disaster, our pets can travel safely with us to designated shelters and not be left behind to perish because of improper emergency planning.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed Southeast Louisiana, leaving St. Bernard Parish a waterlogged marshland. A very large percentage of residents did not evacuate to shelters outside the parish because we did not want to leave our pets behind and were told we could not evacuate with them.
About my medical situation at the time, I had just been released from the hospital and couldn't drive because of my medical condition. The other occupant of my home, my elderly father, is no longer licensed to drive. I had been disabled for three months and was without the income to even fill my vehicle with gasoline, let alone charter a vehicle to transport my family and pets. Obviously, public transportation was not a pet-friendly option. Later I came to find that although some generous gas companies were offering free fuel, this was not widely known nor broadcast through media. It seems that this was yet another flaw of the emergency broadcast system.
My 2-1/2 year old black lab, Angel Girl, was a hero who saved the lives of myself and my family. If she had not woken me from sleep, my family would've drowned. The water was over the roof when she led us out the door.
After the levee breach, my father, sister and nephew's girlfriend were boated from the roof of our Violet, LA home thanks to brave residents who took us to St. Bernard High School. My brother-in-law and nephew stayed back with 4 dogs and 8 birds.
That Tuesday night, my brother-in-law Gene and his son Robert Christopher – along with our family's four dogs Angel Girl, Bullet, Daisy, and Honey – were boated to PGT Beauregard Middle School. Gene saw other animals there and thought pets were safe until water went down. On Wednesday, St. Bernard Sheriff's Office Deputies ordered us to leave the school. We were forbidden to take pets. A St. Bernard Sheriff's Office Deputy assured us "your pets will be rescued." I wrote a note on the school wall pleading for Angel's safekeeping. I wrote "she is a good girl." Others wrote similar notes with contact information, hoping that the Deputy's word would be kept.
One week after Hurricane Rita evacuations, my sister Carol, her family, and I were in a hotel. A dear friend searching for Angel advised me to watch CNN that evening at 10:00 pm. We saw Anderson Cooper break a story called Dog Killings at Three St. Bernard Parish Schools. The crew first filmed room 203 at PGT Beauregard Middle School. What we saw was devastating.
The camera trailed rescue teams as they opened the door. The first dog seen was my sister's husky mix, Bullet. Bullet had not been rescued as promised. Bullet was dead. In the next room, the camera showed my Angel Girl and Honey, both shot to death and lying in their own blood.
The next Saturday my sister Carol, her husband Gene Hamm, and I returned to St. Bernard Parish for the first time. We stopped at PGT Beauregard Middle School and went to the room where Gene was forced to leave our dogs. The sight was beyond words, my worst nightmare. When I saw my beloved Angel in a pool of her blood, I knelt beside her, crying. I asked, "Why did this happen and who did it?" On my knees in her blood, I told her I was sorry that I was forced to leave her and couldn't save her. I kissed Angel's forehead. Carol and Gene also spoke to their dead dog Bullet.
I still have nightmares about what happened and I picture this all too often in my head. I still lay awake at night crying because Angel Girl was all I had.
This bill must be passed so that our pets can be rescued alongside their human family members and not murdered by unprepared law enforcement agents or people who do not like animals nor understand our family bonds with them. Also, the bill will ensure that well-meaning rescuers do not misplace our pets in other states where name tags and paperwork have gone missing during the chaos.
Before I close, I would like to call attention to the three empty leashes that I carry today. They represent my family's three dogs, killed in St. Bernard Parish. It is for the love of these dogs that I am here today.
Blood In SBP Streets And Schools: Timeline
Timeline Of Events ~ In a pathetic epilogue to the saga of murdered companion animals in post-Katrina St. Bernard Parish, all charges are ultimately thrown out due to "lack of substantial evidence."
Oct 2005 ~ Dallas News photojournalist videotapes St. Bernard Sheriff's Officers shooting dogs on the streets: The street killings are a separate case from the school shootings, however the same law enforcers from the same agency are implicated in both cases.
10/10/05 ~ Pasado's Investigator Documents Carnage: Mark Steinway videotapes dead animals as found. "The dogs were not shot in the head to quickly bring about death. Shooting an animal in the body cavity is one of the most cruel ways to kill an animal."
Oct-Dec 2005 ~ Attorney General's Office Interviews Witnesses: A request is submitted for a photo line-up from Sheriff Jack Stephens.
Oct-Feb 2006 ~ Pasado's Records Witness Statements: Details are documented from evacuees forced to leave animals at St. Bernard schools.
2/26/06 ~ Evidence Gathered: Pasado's investigators collect evidence for Attorney General, including shell casings for forensics specialists and transport of bodies to LA State Veterinary Teaching Hospital for necropsies.
Mar 2006 ~ A Witness Steps Up: Pasado's can't divulge source, but may know about school "shooter."
Apr 2006 ~ Photo Lineup Of Deputy Sheriffs Is Sought: St. Bernard Sheriff Jack Stephens does not respond to Pasado's request for records and photos of 300+ officers and the Attorney General is apparently not empowered to obtain this data. So Pasado's files a public records request, under a state law similar to Freedom of Information Act.
Apr-Aug 2006 ~ Nationwide Action Campaigns: Pasado's asks people to write St. Bernard Sheriff for a photo lineup of officers who served on day animals were shot. A Kinship Circle alert urges the same, along with efforts to seek conviction of those involved in the massacre.
Jun 2006 ~ SBP Sheriff's Office Denies Repeat Requests: Ongoing request for photos of Sheriff Deputies on duty during animal massacre are rejected because they are "personnel records" and "protected information."
Aug 2006 ~ Attorney Takes Civil Case: New Orleans attorney Eileen Comiskey lists six plaintiffs for a suit filed in civil district court that names as defendants Sheriff Jack Stephens, the Department, a deputy and sergeant.
Oct 2006: A civil case is filed in Federal Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.
2/14/07 ~ St. Bernard Deputies Plead Not Guilty In Dog Street Shootings: Orleans Times Picayune / Chalmette, LA (AP) – St. Bernard Parish sheriff's deputy Clifford "Chip" Englande and former deputy Michael Minton pleaded not guilty to felony charges of aggravated cruelty to animals in a case dated to Hurricane Katrina. Minton, who has left the Sheriff's Office, and Englande, a sergeant reassigned to admin duties, are accused of shooting dogs in the days following Katrina.
Jan 2008 ~ Case Closed? The street shootings case against Michael Minton and Clifford Englande is closed, due to "lack of evidence."
Animals Shot Execution-Style
We Found Your Dog GiGi
As Judy and Santo Migliore evacuated on to a barge, an official threatened to handcuff Judy if she did not abandon GiGi, a 10-pound toy poodle. Judy clung to her 6-year-old dog with the apricot marks etched inside one ear and along her back. But officials stood firm and Judy was forced to leave Gigi with a St. Bernard Parish Deputy in Violet, Louisiana.
The Migliores and three of five adult children were now homeless, their former homes washed away in the levee break after Katrina. Desperate to find GiGi, they initiated an internet search from their hotel room in Lafayette, LA. They checked shelters statewide and perused Petfinders, once stumbling upon a white miniature poodle sent to a Michigan Humane Society. That lead, like others, was a dead end.
On Oct 7, an email came: "I'm so sorry if this is GiGi," Dana, a volunteer, wrote. "You cannot see in the pictures, but the dog's nails are painted. The dog was found in [school] room 206, 208, or 210. Please, please accept my condolences if this is GiGi."
In the photo, a tangle of white fur rested atop a puddle of feces and blood. Patches of sunlight framed the tiny dog and a discarded cigarette butt lay by her head. Gigi had finally been found.
On October 7, Judy Migliore wrote to Ellen Little, another volunteer in the search for GiGi: "Ellen, I just wanted to let you know that my baby, GiGi, was found and that it's been confirmed she was never taken from the shelter. She died. The Pasado animal group in St. Bernard Parish found her. Once again, thank you and all the kind people who tried to bring this to a happy ending. But, now it has ended in sadness."
John Bozes, a civil lawsuit plaintiff against St. Bernard Sheriff's deputies, holds a photo his black Labrador puppy Angel Girl, shot inside a school.
In Bozes' photo, his niece is with Angel Girl and her Husky-mix, Bullet. Bullet was also found dead on a school floor littered with milk bones and bullet shells. In the only related justice to emerge for Angel Girl, Bullet, Honey, GiGi and others, lawmakers passed SB-607 in 2006, Louisiana's first-ever Pet Evacuation Law.
"There is 1 very nice dog in there. Please do not shoot her. Her name is Angel," read one message. Another read, "Call me please. I want my pets back." And, "In this room are six adult dogs and four puppies. Please save them! Kit."
"When I saw my beloved Angel in a pool of her blood, I knelt beside her, crying. I asked, "Why did this happen and who did it?" On my knees in her blood, I told her I was sorry that I was forced to leave her and couldn't save her. I kissed Angel's forehead." St. Bernard evacuee, John Bozes
A Miracle Named Mercedes
Only Known Dog To Survive Massacre Found In School
By October 2005, Katrina rescuer Kelle Davis had traveled to NOLA from her Houston home many times. She began at Lamar Dixon on Sept. 13, 2005 and wound up working for original ARNO at their Magazine Street compound. Most of Kelle's days were spent combing the streets of the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish, in search of animal survivors.
On Oct. 25 she roamed SBP streets with rescue partner Barb Dunsmore. Several residents flagged them down to talk about the high school dog shootings. One woman mentioned former deputy sheriff Mike Minton. Barb and Kelle hiked over to Beauregard Middle School, where the shootings had occurred weeks earlier. Upon entry, they saw bloodstained walls and red footprints. Kelle inadvertently kicked a sleeping bag and found a dead Chihuahua stuffed beneath. She was so heartbroken, she ferried the little dog back to Houston for a proper burial in her own yard.
They left the school to continue street sweeps of SBP. One local, Maxy Munez, told Barb and Kelle he'd heard barking at Beauregard Middle School when there to fix a water break. They returned to the school and found an old limestone building — formerly a courthouse, but converted to the school's gym offices. They noticed a broken window about four feet above ground. Kelle climbed in but saw nothing. Suddenly, a black shadow lunged at her.
A black pit bull came into focus next to a wall by a filing cabinet. The dog was very much alive. Why wasn't she shot along with the others? She was in the last room at the back of the building. Perhaps she'd heard the others' cries and when killers opened the door, she bolted? But no one knows how this dog got through a thick, closed door into the room in the first place!
Mercedes, coaxed with food and trapped, went home to Houston. Kelle later received a photo of SBP resident Christopher Acosta and his wife clutching photos of their lost dogs. One looked vaguely like Mercedes. No contact information accompanied photos. Kelle contacted Kate Danaher, an original ARNO coordinator, Stealth Volunteer, and Kinship Circle's social media director. Kate identified Mercedes as the possible lost dog of Chris Acosta and sent Kelle information. Reunion! Kelle drove Mercedes to Chris and his wife, whose other dogs were shot. CNN covered the amazing story.
In photo above, volunteers Kelle Davis and Barb Dunsmore are with Maxy Munez, the local who alerted them to Mercede's barking inside Beauregard Middle School. Below, Barb Dunsmore gently handles Mercedes, the miracle dog who survived 2005 St. Bernard school shootings.
Kinship Circle Action Alert Archive
2/26/06 ~ Katrina Dog Shooting Case Stalled
Dear Sheriff Stephens,
I write in goodwill, with hope and respect for communities rebuilding in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. However, I am distressed about the lack of legal action in the execution-style shooting of 33 dogs and cats inside St. Bernard Parish Schools last October.
As you know, rising floodwaters forced families to take refuge at these schools. Upon further evacuation, people were ordered to leave their pets behind. They scratched notes on school walls: "Please save our dogs. We love them."
But despite the presence of food, water, collars, ID tags, and contact information, these companion animals were later found tethered and shot at close range. Amid the carnage, investigators spotted shell casings consistent with the type law enforcers use.
Grieving families have patiently awaited answers. Yet the case appears to be at a standstill.
Pasado's Safe Haven, the animal rescue group that gathered evidence for the Attorney General's Office, requested photos of Sheriff's Deputies associated with St. Bernard Sheriff's Office in the wake of Katrina. The Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, told Pasado: "For reasons I cannot reveal, I was unable to procure photos to show any of the evacuees."
Pasado investigators, who gathered shell casings for forensics specialists and transported bodies to Louisiana State Veterinary Teaching Hospital for necropsies, now seek photos directly from the St. Bernard Sheriff. They have filed a public records request, utilizing a state law similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Sheriff Stephens, please respond to Pasado's request with a photo lineup of all St. Bernard Parish Deputy Sheriffs. Photos are vital in helping evacuees identify potential suspects.
I urge you to grant Pasado's request for public records, as part of your comprehensive effort to investigate, prosecute and seek the conviction of individual(s) involved in the brutal shooting of companion animals.
Thank you for your cooperation in a disturbing case that has gained international attention.
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack A. Stephens
2 Courthouse Square / Chalmette, LA 70043
504-271-2504, fax: 504-278-7716 firstname.lastname@example.org
Copy Comments To:
Sheriff Jeff Wiley, President
Louisiana Sheriffs Association
Courthouse Building, Houmas Street
Donaldsonville, LA 70346
225-473-8687, fax: 225-621-8322, 225-621-8323 email@example.com
Sheriff Sid Hebert, 1st Vice President
Louisiana Sheriffs Association
300 Iberia Street, Ste 120 / New Iberia, LA 70560
337-369-3714, fax: 337-365-5582 firstname.lastname@example.org
Copy Comments To:
Sheriff Greg Champagne, 2nd Vice President
Louisiana Sheriffs Association
15045 River Road
Hahnville, LA 70057
985-783-6237, fax: 985-783-1008 email@example.com
Kinship Circle Action Alert Archive
10/10/05 ~ Justice For Animals Slaughtered
To: Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr., District Attorney John F. Rowley, St. Bernard Parish President Henry J. Rodriguez Jr., LA District Attorneys Assoc., Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter
Honorable Officials of Louisiana:
My prayers are with Gulf coast cities as officials endeavor to rebuild in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. However, no city can renew itself without an underpinning of humanity.
That is why I've taken the time to contact you about the execution-style killing of family pets inside Beauregard Middle School and Sebastien Roy Elementary School in St. Bernard Parish. Floodwaters forced people to take refuge at the schools. Upon further evacuation, they were ordered to leave their companions behind. Many scratched notes on walls: "There is a very nice dog in here. Please do not shoot her… Her name is Angel."
"Please save our dogs," they begged. "We love them." But despite the presence of food, water, collars, ID tags, and contact information — some 33 dogs and cats, a number of them tethered in what appeared to be a jet-ski two rope, were found shot to death. At the Beauregard Middle School, 14 dogs with bullet wounds in the body cavity revealed slow, painful death. Amid the carnage, investigators spotted shell casings consistent with the type law enforcers use.
The deliberate slaughter of pets is merciless. One cannot measure its psychological impact upon hurricane survivors who already lost everything.
It violates state law. Louisiana RS 14:102.1 proclaims, in part, that whomever "intentionally or with criminal negligence tortures, maims, or mutilates any living animal, whether belonging to himself or another, shall be guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals."
On behalf of these animals and their distraught guardians, I respectfully ask you to investigate, prosecute and seek the conviction of individual(s) involved in the shooting of evacuees' pets. Offenders ought to face maximum penalties under the law. Law enforcers associated with this crime should be removed from active duty.
In early September Dallas Morning News photojournalist David Leeson videotaped Sgt. Mike Minton of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's office randomly shooting displaced pets. When asked how many dogs he shot, Sgt. Minton replied, "Enough."
These are domestic animals, many considered family members. Neuropsychiatrist Carol A. Tavani, M.D., says she regularly witnesses "the powerful emotional bonds people form with their animal companions. Forcing disaster victims to abandon animals is likely to inflict profound and persistent emotional trauma."
Forcing them to abandon beloved animals, who are in turn killed by police officers, is inadmissible. I implore you to apprehend those responsible for both street and school shootings and to assure no more animals are senselessly killed.