North Catasauqua, PA - December 21, 2015 - The owners of a cat shot and killed by North Catasauqua Police Officer Leighton Pursell are demanding that the officer be fired and that criminal charges of Cruelty to Animals be filed.
Tom Newhart's attorney, Jenna M. Fliszar of Bethlehem, PA, sent a letter to the North Catasauqua Borough, Mayor William Molchany, Chief of Police Kim Moyer and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli outlining the case. "The only reasonable and acceptable outcome here is to charge Officer Pursell with Cruelty to Animals and terminate his employment," said Fliszar. "It is the only option that adheres to the law and protects the public."
Newhart and Fliszar summarize the case as follows: On December 6, 2015, Sugar the cat got out of Newhart's home and wandered several houses away to the home of Mike Lienert. After he was unable to catch Sugar and fearing she may be injured, Lienert called the police for help.
When Officer Pursell arrived, he immediately said to Lienert, "it may not be politically correct, but if it's injured, I'm going to put it down." Aside from poking and prodding Sugar as she hid under a grill, Pursell made no efforts to capture or wrangle Sugar. Sugar showed no signs of aggression, other than hissing at the officer. When she finally came out, Pursell informed Lienert that he was going to shoot the cat.
As she walked away, it was clear to Lienert that Sugar was not injured. Even though Sugar was not injured, aggressive, or creating a danger to Pursell or the community, Pursell shot Sugar in the neck, killing her. He then told Lienert that he would need to "clean up the mess." Pursell made no attempt to find Sugar's owners and instead threw her body in a dumpster. Another officer later helped retrieve the body and return it to Newhart so he could have Sugar cremated. A post-mortem exam was performed and showed no signs of injury, except for the gunshot inflicted by Pursell.
The PA Crimes Code states that a person commits the crime of Cruelty to Animals when he "willfully and maliciously kills…any dog or cat belonging to himself or otherwise." Fliszar argues that is exactly what happened in this case.
"She was not sick, aggressive, or dangerous. He never made any attempt to catch her. She was shot in the neck within hours of getting out of her home. He then disposed of her body in a dumpster without making any attempt to locate her owners," said Fliszar. "It is hard to imagine a more willful or malicious act than this."
Fliszar goes on to argue that Pursell's decision to discharge his firearm shows a serious lack of judgment. Pursell fired the shot in a residential neighborhood where houses are close together and at a time when families were home. "Given his inability to exercise good judgment and act appropriately in the course of his employment, Officer Pursell's employment must be terminated," said Fliszar.
Fliszar has set up a Justice for Sugar Facebook page (www.facebook.com/justiceforsugar) where the public can receive updates on the Borough's reaction to the shooting. The page also offers ways the public can help.
"Sugar was more than just a cat," says Newhart. "My pets are like my kids. I just want this officer disciplined for what he did to Sugar."