The more details that emerge, the more sick and disturbing the story becomes. Jelani Lewis, the owner of the late Gizmo, the 2-pound Yorkshire terrier who made national news after being kicked like a football, says that three individuals, not just one, should be charged in connection with his dog's death since they all took part in beating him. In addition, he says that the Metro police officers who arrived at the scene failed to properly investigate the case.
Until now, Chad Crawford, the 23-year-old former maintenance worker, has been identified as the main suspect, but two other individuals also allegedly kicked Gizmo and are likely to be named in an upcoming civil suit. Police reports place Michael Lee Davis and Andrew Jacob Rothlisberger at the scene the evening Gizmo was killed, and Lewis says that both of them kicked Gizmo. Meanwhile, as the police officers who responded to the call finish their supplemental reports, the Davidson County District Attorney's office is also looking at expanding the probe.
"The case remains under investigation to see if any additional charges need to be placed," says Robert Shaudoin, criminal investigator for the district attorney's office.
It's a story that has aired on CNN and everywhere else, provoking outrage and debate about the state's tepid animal cruelty laws. But more than two weeks after the dog's cruel death, many questions remain unanswered, including who exactly took part in kicking Gizmo.
According to Jelani Lewis' account to the Scene, Davis and Rothlisberger are just as culpable in Gizmo's death as Crawford. In addition, either one could have been the man who issued the death blow to the 17-year-old dog. Lewis says that on Monday night, April 5, he let Gizmo out to go to the bathroom as he walked to dump his trash in a Dumpster at the Nashboro Village Apartments. Not long after Lewis turned around a corner, he heard a group of men laughing, a reaction many people have when they spot his tiny dog. But Lewis later found out they were laughing for a different reason. The three had surrounded Gizmo and were kicking him, almost like he was a Hacky Sack. He could hear his dog cry and cough in a way he had never heard before.
"When I saw that, I was dumbfounded," he recalls. "I was thinking, 'Maybe I'm not seeing what I'm seeing,' but when I realized what was going on, I ran toward them."
Lewis was about 30 to 50 yards away when he says he saw Michael Davis hold Gizmo like he was a football. Chad Crawford took a few steps back like a placekicker, ran to the dog and kicked him.
"Their first statement after the kick was, 'It's good,' " Lewis recalls. "Then they put their hands up like a field goal sign and started bragging that they killed him."
Davis confirmed Lewis' account, telling police that Crawford kicked the dog. The Tennessean also interviewed a witness who said that Crawford admitted to the attack.
Lewis says that, looking back, Gizmo was probably already dead before Crawford kicked him like a football. He probably died when Davis, Crawford and Rothlisberger were gathered in a circle assaulting him. "I can't say how many times they kicked him, but it wasn't just one or two kicks," Lewis says. "They were kicking and stomping him."
Also, at the time that Davis was holding him, the dog was limp and his head unnaturally hung over, looking as if his neck had snapped. When Lewis later returned to the spot where the dog was held, there was a pool of blood. Lani Vincent, who performed the autopsy on Gizmo, says her findings don't suggest that the dog was repeatedly kicked, although they indicate that Gizmo's cause of death was "a severe blow to the brain stem," suggesting the dog was kicked at least once.
Vincent also says she found nothing to suggest that Gizmo was hit by an automobile, which is what Crawford has claimed.
"I can't rule it out 100 percent that the dog was run over by a car, but it sure didn't look like it," she says.
After Gizmo was kicked the last time, Lewis chased the three assailants, grabbed Crawford by his shirt collar and brought them all back to where Gizmo had been killed. Then, and numerous times after, Crawford denied he kicked the dog, offering varying accounts of what happened, including that Gizmo was struck by a car and that he was beaten. He also said, "We didn't know what it was, dude. We were just having fun."
According to the police report, Crawford was drunk that evening. He tried to flee, but he fell to the ground and was easily restrained until the police arrived. Meanwhile, Lewis says, Davis offered him money to settle the incident without calling the police. Lewis rejected his offer.
After the police arrived, Michael Davis told them that Crawford kicked Gizmo. According to Lewis, Davis also confessed to his role in the incident. "'Would it make it better if I told you I took part in killing the dog and I saw Chad kick the dog?" Lewis recalls Davis saying.
But the police arrested only Crawford, charging him with felony vandalism and a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge. Lewis says that the police officers spent little time trying to corroborate his side of the story. "The bottom line is we don't understand why all three weren't charged," Lewis says. "We asked the arresting officer to look at Gizmo, and he said, 'Don't worry, I'll take care of it. We asked him to see the blood, and he said, 'Don't worry, I'll take care of it.' "
Lewis also says that the police only talked to him about what happened to his dog for approximately five minutes.
Refuting the idea that the police neglected to investigate the case properly, Metro Police Department spokesman Don Aaron says that officers arrived at the Nashboro Village apartments only three minutes after they were dispatched, and that they remained there for nearly two-and-a-half hours. "The officers talked to a variety of people there and attempted to interview the person charged, Mr. Crawford. He declined to answer any questions."
Lewis has retained attorney Todd Faulkner to help him navigate the criminal proceedings and file a civil suit. Faulkner anticipates that he'll have a complaint filed by next week against all three individuals. "I think it's obvious from Jelani's story that all three of these men knew what they were doing and knew what they were going to do," he says. "All three of these men participated in killing the dog, and, in my mind, everybody has the same level of culpability."
Sources close to the criminal investigation say that, at this point at least, there's no reason to doubt Lewis' account of what happened. But as the investigation proceeds, witnesses will be interviewedand reinterviewed. Crawford couldn't be reached for comment. In an interview with WSMV-Channel 4, he maintained his innocence and claimed that witnesses will come forward to exonerate him. His lead attorney, Paul Moser, declined to elaborate. The phone numbers for Michael Davis and Andrew Rothlisberger have been disconnected, and neither could be reached for comment.
In her autopsy on Gizmo, Lani Vincent wrote that Gizmo appeared to be well cared for. He had been groomed recently and even had had dental work. Despite his age, his teeth showed only a minimal amount of tartar.
"He was our kid. He was like a cat, very independent. He would rarely bark unless he wanted you to pet him," Lewis recalls. "If you didn't pet him, he rolled in front of you. He never, ever wanted to be alone. If I was asleep in another room, he looked for me to try to find me. He was the best dog you could have."
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