Firefighter Who Allegedly Left Poisoned Food That Killed Cats and Dog Faces Felony Charges

A firefighter in El Paso, Texas turned himself in on an arrest warrant after he was accused of leaving out poisoned cat food for animals in a neighborhood.

According to officials from the El Paso Police Department, residents reported suspicious behavior on May 28.

"Residents observed a man placing plates of cat food in the area, which neighbors found suspicious," officials said in a press release. "Days later, five cats and one dog became ill and died due to the tainted food."

The police department's Animal Cruelty Investigation Unit carried out an investigation and learned that Lieutenant Shawn Hanke of the El Paso Fire Department was responsible for leaving the food out for the animals.

Five of these animals were pets and one was a stray animal.

A press information officer for the El Paso Police Department told Newsweek that police learned the food was poisoned based on information from area residents and what they found through the investigation. However, he declined to disclose those specific findings at press time.

The press officer said it was not known if this is the only time Hanke put out tainted plates of the food.

Police declined to share certain details about the ongoing investigation, but KFOX14 reported on various findings in the affidavit. According to the outlet, the affidavit stated that a woman reported that she saw a plate of food left on her porch, which her pets had access to, but it did not contain "normal pet food."

Other plates that were found were eaten from, leading to the deaths of the other animals. The outlet reported that the affidavit stated that a neighborhood cat and the woman's neighbor's dog were found dead with white foam and a pink substance around their mouths.

Pet Food Dish
A firefighter in El Paso, Texas was accused of putting out plates of tainted cat food around his neighborhood, which resulted in the deaths of five cats and a dog. Above, two puppies are pictured eating from a food bowl. Tim Graham/Getty Images

Police also declined to share the results of the tests performed on the food with Newsweek.

However, KFOX14 reported that the affidavit stated ibuprofen was in the food on the plates.

Hanke turned himself in for these charges, and his bond was set for $15,000.

According to officials, animal cruelty causing death is a third-degree felony in Texas. Those convicted may face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

"The City of El Paso and Fire Department do not condone this type of behavior and take this allegation seriously," said El Paso Fire Chief Mario D'Agostino in a statement sent to Newsweek. "The individual is currently on administrative leave pending the investigation."

Cases of animal cruelty span across the country.

Newsweek reported in early October that Ruth Rupprect was arrested on drug and animal cruelty charges. She is the owner of SAFFARI (Save a Furry Friend Animal Rescue Inc.), which was established in 2012 as an animal rescue operation.

However, officials with Florida's Flagler County Sheriff's Office alleged that Rupprect used the organization as a front for selling drugs. An investigation ensued in May 2021 after a puppy died within days of being adopted from her organization.

When investigators searched her Palm Coast house after obtaining a warrant, they discovered more than $20,000 in cash, more than 100 prescription medications and several dead and alive animals in filthy conditions.

Police seized 46 animals from the property, and the conditions the animals were found in resulted in another investigation for animal cruelty.

Rupprecht was subsequently arrested on drug charges and for animal cruelty.

"This woman used innocent animals as a front for her drug-dealing business and didn't even properly care for them," Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly told Newsweek. "She also preyed on the generosity of our community and the hearts of persons unknowing adopting very sick animals."

Updated 10/29/2021, 6:34 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from the El Paso Police Department.