Animal control officials are investigating whether a man committed a crime when he bludgeoned an injured dog with a hammerlike item in an attempt to euthanize the dog after it was hit by cars.
"I had to literally cover my ears and scream to block out the sound," witness Anna Herrera said. "To know what he was doing and have to hear it. I heard the dog screaming loudly."
Lucy, a 2-year-old Weimaraner, had gotten out after Lisa Francis' twins accidentally left open a door. A short time later, the dog was hit by a car on Valley Center Road. Several motorists stopped, including a large man and woman who were traveling together and Valley Center resident Mike Goss.
Goss said on Thursday at his home that the guy was "huge," about 6 feet 5 inches tall, weighed 300 pounds, was very angry and described him as "a guy on a mission."
The guy came up and said, "I've seen things like this before," Goss said. "I know what to do," and then he ordered the three other people near Lucy to leave.
Goss said the man also told the woman who was with him, who may have been his wife, to get back to their truck. She refused, and the man ordered her to leave a second time.
Herrera, who had offered to bring Lucy to a veterinarian's hospital, got up and left, crying and screaming. Goss said at that point that he was still kneeling by the dog and the guy again told him to leave.
"He was a huge angry guy holding a hammer-like club, and I was not going to take him on," said Goss, who felt threatened by the man.
Several witnesses said the man struck the dog with the hammer but failed to kill it. He left the scene prior to the arrival of a sheriff's deputy, who put down the dog shortly after he arrived.
The man with the hammer has not been identified.
Dan DeSousa, a spokesman for the San Diego County Animal Services Department, said agency investigators plan to turn over their findings to county prosecutors Friday. It will be up to prosecutors to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, the North County Times reported.
Under the law, the man's intent when he clubbed the dog matters. The crime of animal cruelty requires prosecutors to prove the defendant acted "maliciously and intentionally" to bring harm to the animal.
DeSousa said the man who beat the dog told investigators he had seen the dog be hit by three cars on Valley Center Road, and he was trying to help her as she lay near Chaparral Terrace.
"He said he felt it was in the best interest of the animal to put it out of its misery and suffering, so he struck the animal with a hammer," DeSousa said. "He believes he was doing the best thing for the animal."
DeSousa declined to release the name of the man under investigation, citing state laws that allow investigators to withhold public information if they believe it might bring harm to a person or their investigation.