A Texas firefighter has been charged with fatally poisoning at least six animals, El Paso police say.
Shawn Michael Hanke, a 48-year-old member of the El Paso Fire Department, turned himself in after an arrest warrant was issued, KVIA reported. He is facing six felony counts of animal cruelty resulting in death.
The alleged poisonings happened in late May, outlets reported.
Residents of an east El Paso neighborhood reported seeing a man placing pet food out on plates in the area, which they found “suspicious,” KTSM reported. Soon after, five cats and a dog were found dead due to poisoning.
It didn’t take long for neighbors to notice something was amiss.
Those five cats used to pass by Lucy Velazquez’ front door every night, she said, and then one day, they just stopped, she told KFOX.
“I could see from my Ring [camera] there were like five cats come through here,” Velázquez said. “I said to my husband, remember those cats [that] used to come? We haven’t had any cats at all.”
The El Paso Police Department began investigating, and say Hanke was the culprit, according to the outlet.
“That’s sad because maybe they did have owners that are missing their cats,” Velázquez told KFOX. “Animals are just like children, they depend on us to keep them safe to provide safety for them.”
Fire officials said Hanke has been put on administrative leave while the investigation continues, outlets reported, adding that the fire department and city of El Paso do “not condone this type of behavior and take this allegation seriously.”