Hunting for justice

When Hal Wallace went to the emergency room on June 29 following an attack by his roommate’s dog, he and his husband, Johnathon DeJarnett, had a hunch the dog had been goaded into attacking Wallace. They believe the roommate, Johnathan James Mayer, riled his pit bull mix, Rocko, to intimidate Wallace.

Now, what was a backyard dispute between two roommates has become an ongoing battle that has left all sides disappointed.

June 29 was a low-key day with good energy for a house that was otherwise filled with personalities, said Calvin Carlson, another roommate. It was nice, that is, until Wallace went into the backyard.

A dispute over Wallace’s lawnmower provoked Rocko to suddenly attack, mauling Wallace. When DeJarnett, Carlson and roommate Ashton Williams heard the ruckus they saw a badly injured Wallace and a terrified Mayer.

The roommates scrambled. They called the police and animal control. DeJarnett and Wallace were headed toward the hospital in an ambulance.

Rocko was taken to the animal control shelter.

A few of the roommates had been drinking, said Mayer. When asked, Carlson disputed it. “It was a negligible amount,” he said.

According to documents provided by DeJarnett, Plano Animal Control officer Jamey Cantrell believed that Rocko attacked Wallace. But what remains in question is whether Mayer intentionally goaded Rocko into attacking Wallace.

While Mayer and the couple had clashed before, it was nothing dramatic, said Carlson. Even when tensions were at their highest the atmosphere was still cordial.

After the city’s animal control division opened an investigation, the couple also filed a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against Mayer. But after an investigation, the detective concluded that their claims were unsubstantiated.

“There was no proof that Mr. Mayer intentionally … caused serious bodily injury to Mr. Wallace and that a deadly weapon was used,” wrote Police Chief Gregory Rushin in an e-mail provided by DeJarnett.

“I am in shock if this is how the justice system works. If it wasn’t malicious, it was at least negligence, and we can find no advocacy at Plano PD,” DeJarnett wrote. DeJarnett and Wallace said they believe the police department’s decision not to send the case to the Collin County District Attorney’s office came from homophobia in the police department.

Mayer denied that he acted with malicious or reckless intent. He alleged that Wallace provoked the dog by cranking the lawnmower, a loud machine that intimidated Rocko, and precipitated the attack. Mayer maintains his innocence and said he tried to restrain the dog.

“If you antagonize a dog, they will respond,” Mayer said.

Since the attack, Wallace has been in and out of the hospital four times, piling up thousands of dollars in medical bills. He has also missed more than a month of work.

Mayer moved out.

The city’s animal control division has scheduled a hearing to determine whether the dog will return its owner or be euthanized. Mayer said he still visits Rocko at the shelter.

Wallace is still in the hospital. While he and DeJarnett see one form of injustice in alleged discrimination by the police department, Mayer sees another: “That dog is my little baby. I’ve had him since he was six months old.”

via Hunting for justice.


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