PD: Man who used sledgehammer to kill injured dog arrested

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Ivan Lawrence (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Ivan Lawrence (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
At his initial court appearance, Ivan Lawrence was told that he cannot have contact with any animals, not even his own pets. (Source: Superior Court) At his initial court appearance, Ivan Lawrence was told that he cannot have contact with any animals, not even his own pets. (Source: Superior Court)
(Source: Facebook) (Source: Facebook)
Ivan Lawrence (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Ivan Lawrence (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

Police have arrested a Phoenix man who allegedly used a sledgehammer to kill a dog that had been hit by a car.

Ivan Lawrence, 49, was booked on one count of felony animal abuse under §ARS 13-2910 and a violation of city code for failing to render aid.

This goes back to 9 p.m. Saturday. The dog was hit by one -- possibly two vehicles -- in the area of 37th and Oak streets.

"A few people, including children, were gathered around the injured animal when the suspect, 49 year old [sic] Ivan Lawrence, retrieved a sledgehammer from his home nearby and struck the dog twice in the head, killing it," explained Sgt. Vince Lewis of the Phoenix Police Department.

It's not clear if the dog, Beau, might have survived being hit had she been taken to a veterinarian.

"The dog appeared to have an injured front leg and was weight bearing on 3 [sic] legs and was able to move with the assistance of the other dog that was standing nearby in a protective capacity," according to court paperwork. "The injured dog was panting and appeared to need medical treatment. The witnesses planned to take the dog to a 24 hour [sic] medical clinic after they established that the owner was not home at the time of the incident."

Lawrence's court paperwork notes that there are "a number" of 24-hour animals hospitals relatively close to where the dog was hit.

A woman came from down the street and said "she would get her husband because he would know what to do."

Lawrence showed up, sledgehammer in hand, a few minutes later. By that time, Beau was lying by the front door of its owner's home. 

"Witnesses reported that Ivan proceeded to say he was going to kill the dog with the sledgehammer," the arresting officers wrote in his probable cause for arrest statement. "One witness attempted to verbally dissuade Ivan from killing the dog for approximately 10 minutes to no avail. The witness reported that Ivan was swinging the hammer in an aggressive manner and said he had a gun.

"The witness reported that she told Ivan that she and her mother were going to take the dog to the veterinarian nearby but Ivan said he was going to kill the dog and put it out of its misery," the probable cause statement continues. "By this time two children were standing nearby from the neighborhood pleading with Ivan to refrain from hitting the dog with a sledgehammer."

The witness told police she was intimidated by Lawrence, enough so that she backed away. That, according to the witness is when Lawrence approached the injured dog.

"The witness [said] the dog was not whining or yelping prior to being struck in the head but the dog yelped loudly when the suspect swung and hit the dog in the head the first time," reads the court paperwork. "The witness reported that the suspect then swung the hammer a second time and hit the dog in the head."

Another witness called the police and officers documented the incident.

"This information was seen by Phoenix Police Animal Cruelty detectives later that week who responded and recontacted the dog owner and suspect," Lewis said.

According to Jessica Headley, who posted about the incident on a public Facebook group called Arizona Animal Rescue Alliance, the owners of the dog, including six children, got home about 10 minutes later to find their pet dead in the doorway of their home.

"She didn't have to die the way she did," Headley wrote in her post, which she has updated several times since the incident. "I begged and begged and pleaded for him to not go on property and do it. ... I couldn't stop him."

"[The owners] were devastated to learn that their pet Beau had been killed in this manner as they would have preferred their pet had been treated at an animal hospital as the witnesses were trying to do," the arresting officer wrote.

Lewis said investigators established probable cause to arrest Lawrence on Wednesday, including being positively identified in a photo lineup by a 10-year-old who witnessed the incident.

"The child reportedly has had crying episodes and nightmares as a result of the incident," according to Lawrence's court paperwork.

When detectives talked to Lawrence about what happened that night, "he confirmed that he euthanized the dog as a mercy killing."

"The suspect admitted he was reckless in killing the dog in this manner and with children present to witness it," reads the arresting officer's report. 

Although he claimed to be doing what was "needed" for Beau "to put the dog out of his misery," he told police it's not something he would want somebody to do to his dog.

"The suspect agreed that any reasonable person would have an issue if they saw what he did," court paperwork reads. "The suspect admitted that if his dog were hit by a car he would object to someone doing what he did to his own pet.

During his initial court appearance Thursday, Lawrence only had one question for Commissioner Paula Williams, who set a secured appearance bond of $2,000. One condition of his release is that he not "have contact with any animals under any circumstances." He wanted to know about the timeframe for that because he has pets.

Under Arizona law, Lawrence, who served with the National Guard for a time, could face a minimum of three months in jail and a maximum of 18 if convicted of a class 6 felony and 6 months to two years if convicted of a class 5 felony.

[PDF: Probable cause for arrest of Ivan Lawrence]

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