HEBER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - An Arizona lawmaker met with the U.S. Forest Service and sent them a letter requesting an extensive investigation and transparency with the public regarding the investigation into the shooting deaths of wild horses in Heber.
Last week, 15 horses were found dead in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. At least 12 of them died from gunshot wounds. Last year, at least 11 horses were shot to death in the same area and no arrests were ever made.
"If people are frustrated they should try to find solutions to it other than taking actions like that, it's inhumane," said Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran.
O'Halleran said he believes some people are frustrated with the wild horses because they use the water tanks or use resources that other animals in the area also need.
"In the long run it's still the same-- I mean you're trying to address something from your own perspective and that's, you know, we have ways of doing this. Just call us up and we'll say, 'What's the issue and how can we help ya?'" said O'Halleran.
[RELATED: 4 more dead horses found near Heber]
O'Halleran said his staff met with the Forest Service about what can be done in the investigation going forward to arrest the offender(s).
"The Forest Service has come up with some other concept and ideas as far as being able to have the authority to conduct forensic analysis of relevant items and evidence," O'Halleran said. "We can find the bullets and find out which weapons they come from and potentially, in the long run, identify the offender. They're going to engage law enforcement at a regional level with increased coordination with Navajo and Coconino County. They're going to increase patrols in the area. They've issued a $5,000 reward."
The congressman also wrote a letter to the Forest Supervisor of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, asking for transparency with the public.
"We need to do more. We need to identify and use science. We need to have much more transparency and cooperation with the local public on either side of this issue," O'Halleran said.
O'Halleran noted that the shootings seem to be localized to this area of Heber-Overgaard and hopes that someone comes forward with information.
"Whoever's out there doing this, give me a call and let's talk. My information is on the web page and, you know, that's part of why I'm here, to talk to people about what their issues are."
There will be a community action meeting regarding the horse shootings at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Heber-Overgaard Fire Station.