A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict a former Fort Worth police deputy chief who fatally shot a German shepherd after being told the dog attacked and killed his cat.
Kenneth Wayne Flynn, who retired from the Police Department after he was charged with animal cruelty/torture, was no-billed in the case Wednesday, according to Tarrant County court records.
Robert Rogers, Flynn’s defense attorney, who had previously said Flynn’s arrest in the case “reeks of politics,” said Thursday that Flynn is “obviously relieved” by the grand jury’s decision.
“We’re glad the grand jury took a careful look at the case and correctly applied Texas law that allows an individual to kill a dangerous dog that’s just attacked one of their cats,” Rogers said.
Under the Texas Health and Safety Code, a dog or coyote that has recently attacked a domestic animal may be killed by any person witnessing the attack or by the attacked animal’s owner if that owner had knowledge of the attack.
The owner of the 2-year-old dog named Bentley expressed disappointment at the grand jury’s decision. Bryan, who has asked only to be identified by his first name, said he believes there would have been an indictment had Flynn not been an officer.
A female witness in the case who called 911 after the shooting said Thursday, “I’m extremely disappointed in the system.”
Melody McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said Thursday that the grand jury heard from numerous witnesses over several days before returning the no-bill.
“Because grand jury proceedings and testimony are secret by law, this matter is considered closed and we will have no further comment,” she said.
Flynn retired Oct. 31 after 30 years with the department.
“It was already in the plans but once the politics started snowballing, he decided to go ahead and move on with his life and take retirement a few months earlier than he had planned,” Rogers said.
“He’s upset with the way the Police Department handled it but in the end, justice was served and the correct result happened,” he added. “It would have been nice if the police department actually looked at the law and applied the law at the time.”
Police officials declined to comment Thursday on the no-bill.
The shooting occurred around 6 p.m. Sept. 29 in the 1300 block of Oak Grove Road East in south Fort Worth.
Flynn initially denied any involvement but later admitted to investigators that he shot at the dog with his city-issued .45-caliber Glock 30 after learning in a phone call from his sobbing wife that their cat was dead and being told by a neighbor that a German shepherd had been standing over the dead cat.
Flynn told investigators he was driving home from work in his city SUV when he heard the news and drove to Oak Grove Road East, where his neighbor said the German shepherd had since relocated.
There, he spotted the shepherd and a pit bull. He told investigators he ultimately shot at the dog when it stopped in a vacant field with no houses behind it but didn’t know whether the dog was hit.
Bryan said Bentley and his pit bull escaped from his enclosed backyard after his roommate accidentally left the gate open.
An area resident found the dog dead the day after the shooting.
Bryan insisted that Bentley was never aggressive to humans and had only killed possums in the past.
He has said he didn’t know whether Bentley attacked and killed Flynn’s cat because he was not there.
“If the dog was in his yard and actually killed his cat, then maybe he would have had the right to shoot it,” Bryan previously told the Star-Telegram. “But the fact that he chased him down in his truck and shot him and drove away and didn’t report it, that makes it a completely different thing.”
Bryan said Thursday that Police Chief Jeff Halstead paid him a visit mid-October to apologize in person.
Halstead confirmed the meeting, saying he offered to personally pay for Bryan to adopt a new dog from the city shelter when he was ready. It’s an offer that Bryan said he is considering taking the chief up on soon.
Bryan said he keeps Bentley’s cremated remains in a hallway of his home. He said the circumstances behind the dog’s death —and whether anything would happen to the former deputy chief — had weighed heavily on him.
“It’s been on my mind since the first I heard about it,” Bryan said. “It’s a relatively disappointing outcome.”
Investigation into call’s handling continues
Despite Flynn’s retirement, an internal investigation continues into how responding officers handled the incident, officials confirmed.
The female witness previously told the Star-Telegram she was disturbed that the investigation into the deputy chief’s conduct did not begin until after she called back three hours after the shooting and asked dispatchers for a report number — only to learn that the officers had not made one.
“I want to understand why they didn’t file that report,” the woman, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, had said. “Were they intimidated by this man’s rank?”
The three Fort Worth officers who responded to the shooting — M. Bauer, D. Jwanowski and A. Ramsay — did not notify any supervisor, nor make an offense report, according to Flynn’s arrest warrant affidavit.
“The investigation into the actions of the responding officers is still ongoing,” officer Natosha Tucker, a Fort Worth police spokeswoman said Thursday.
In an interview with a detective after the special investigation began, according to the affidavit, the officers detailed their actions that evening this way:
They had been in the area on another call when they heard several shots fired nearby and went to investigate. They arrived at the scene of the shots at the time same dispatchers informed them of the 911 call about shots fired.
The officers talked to two witnesses, one of whom told them that just before the shootings the suspect told her the dog had killed his cat and he was going to shoot it.
The officers began searching for the black SUV the suspect was driving when they encountered a Tarrant County Sheriff’s deputy headed to a call involving a cat killed by a dog.
They followed the deputy to a home on Smallwood Drive, where they spotted a black SUV parked at a neighboring home and Flynn standing in the front yard.
When questioned by the officer, Flynn identified himself as a deputy chief with the department. Asked if he had shot at any dogs, Flynn “said he was not involved,” the affidavit states.
Two of the officers visually inspected Flynn’s city-issued SUV while the third officer chatted with Flynn and asked if the officers needed to “look further.”
“No, you’re good. You don’t need to keep looking,” Flynn responded, the affidavit states.
The officers told investigators that they then returned to the call location. When they couldn’t locate the dog, the officers attached the information they gathered to their call sheet and cleared the call.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655