By CHRISTIAN BOTTORFF
Stunned owner chases suspect down
A Priest Lake man killed his neighbor's 2-pound miniature Yorkshire terrier by kicking it into the air like a football, police said, and authorities have charged him with animal cruelty.
Jelani Lewis and Jessica McKenzie say they are outraged at the death of their 17-year-old pet, Gizmo. Lewis said he watched helplessly early yesterday as three men assaulted the dog the way football players kick field goals.
Contact Gizmo's family
Several readers today have asked how they might contact Jelani Lewis, owner of the Yorkshire terrier who was killed. Lewis said he can be contacted at his e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The dog was dead instantly when he hit the pavement. The man police say kicked him, Chad Daniel Crawford, 23, of the 1000 block of Long Hunter Lane is now charged with cruelty to animals and felony vandalism and was free yesterday after posting $25,000 bail, authorities said.
Reached by telephone at his home, Crawford said the accusations against him were false. He declined to comment further and said he was trying to contact his attorney.
''I didn't believe that they actually kicked my dog,'' Lewis, 29, said yesterday, standing in a parking lot at the Nashboro Village apartment complex, where dried blood puddles were still on the blacktop. ''When I saw him kick it, I was thinking, maybe for a second, 'No, that really isn't Gizmo he's kicking.' ''
One of the men ''with tattoos on both arms was holding the dog like a football,'' Lewis said. ''The other one backed up and kicked him … like a place kicker.''
Gizmo went flying into the air in a high arc. The man and two friends with him laughed, and then ran away, Lewis said. For a moment, Lewis stood still, his eyes following Gizmo's body until it smacked onto the pavement and then rolled a couple of feet beneath a parked car.
''There is an obvious question about the mental makeup of someone who would do a thing like this to a tiny animal,'' said Metro Animal Control Director Judy Ladebauche. ''This is heart-breaking. I've seen horrific things but not like this. I cannot imagine where someone's mind would be who would do something like this.''
Ladebauche said she would ask the Davidson County district attorney general and police officials to upgrade the charges against Crawford from animal cruelty to the state's newly created aggravated animal cruelty charge. A conviction under the new law can result in a court-ordered mental evaluation for the offender, and a second offense is a felony.
Crawford also is charged with felony vandalism, instead of misdemeanor vandalism, because Gizmo was worth about $1,500, according to court records. No one else has been charged in the case, according to a review of recent warrants.
A man who was with Crawford, identified as Michael Lee Davis, also told police that Crawford kicked the dog, according to arrest reports.
Police reports say Crawford, who lives about three blocks from Lewis, is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. Gizmo weighed about 2 pounds, Lewis said.
William Ackerman, a neighbor of Lewis at Nashboro Village, said he saw Gizmo nearly every day as Lewis would stop by. ''I've got it out for anybody who would hurt a little-bitty dog like that. … '' Ackerman said. ''That little dog wouldn't hurt a flea.''
Yorkshire terriers are toy dogs with tan and ''blue'' coats. The American Kennel Club Web site warns that they can be easily injured by small children.
Lewis had seen the men laughing in the parking lot as he took out the trash. But he thought they were petting Gizmo, who Lewis said never barked, bit or attacked, and was a veteran whimperer — always looking for scraps of food or an occasional pat on the head. Lewis said he and Crawford did not know each other.
After Gizmo's death, Lewis said, he chased the three men until he caught Crawford, and made him pick up Gizmo's body and take it upstairs to McKenzie. He later held Crawford until police showed up. As her boyfriend spoke yesterday, McKenzie, 27, wept.
The couple said they were in shock and disbelief yesterday. Gizmo had originally belonged to Lewis' grandmother, and they took the dog when the woman died.