EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14) — An El Paso firefighter was arrested and accused of poisoning his neighbor's cats and a dog with ibuprofen, according to the complaint affidavits.
Officers arrested 48-year-old Shawn Michael Hanke.
On May 28, 2021, residents in the 2700 block of Fierro Drive called the El Paso Police Department to report suspicious behavior.
According to the affidavit, a woman who lives on Fierro reported seeing her adult cat and kitten eat from a plate of food that was left on her front porch. The woman said her other kitten also had access to the plate which contained food that was pink "suspicious and not normal pet food."
About four to five days later the two kittens became ill and died.
The affidavit stated that the woman found another plate hidden between her trashcans and found another plate at her neighbor's house.
The woman's adult cat and her neighbor's cat and dog reportedly ate from the additional plates and also died. Another neighborhood cat was also found dead.
The neighborhood cat and the dog were found dead with white foam and a pink substance around their mouths, the affidavit stated.
The neighbor reviewed their Ring doorbell video and saw Hanke remove a plate of food from his vehicle and place it on the woman's porch, the affidavit stated.
Hanke told investigators and another witness that he placed that least one plate of food at the woman's home for the kittens. Hanke told investigators that he did not remember if he left additional plates with food.
Hanks also said he did not know how or why there was ibuprofen in the food he left for kittens.
The affidavit stated that laboratory analysis confirmed that ibuprofen was in the food found on plates.
KFOX14 spoke to a neighbor who said that she saw the same five cats passing by her Ring doorbell every night. One day she said they disappeared and she didn't know why.
“I could see from my ring [camera] there were like five cats come through here," said Lucy Velázquez, who lives on Fierro Dr. "I said to my husband remember those cats [that] used to come? We haven’t had any cats at all”
An investigation by the El Paso Police Departments Animal Cruelty Investigation unit determined that Hanke was responsible for the poisoning deaths of the animals.
El Paso Fire Department Chief Mario D' Agostino provided the following statement:
A member of the El Paso Fire Department has been arrested in connection to an animal cruelty investigation. The City of El Paso and Fire Department do not condone this type of behavior and take this allegation seriously. This is an ongoing investigation and the El Paso Police Department should be contacted for any further information. The individual is currently on Administrative Leave pending the investigation.
The case was presented to Judge Hamilton, who issued six warrants for Cruelty to Animal Causing Death with bail set at $2,500 for each count.
On October 26, 2021, Hanke turned himself in for the Animal Cruelty Warrants and was booked into the El Paso County Detention Facility with a total bond of $15,000.00.
Animal cruelty causing death is a third-degree felony in Texas and punishable for up to 10 years in prison, with a fine of up to $10,000.
“That’s sad because maybe they did have owners that are missing their cats," said Velázquez. "Animals are just like children they depend on us to keep them safe to provide safety for them."
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