A Boerne police officer has been fired three weeks after he fired an arrow into a neighbor's cat.
The firing came one day after a grand jury declined to indict Lance Deleon on animal cruelty charges. (The animal survived after being treated for a punctured lung.) Deleon's attorney, David Parent -- who lives in the same neighborhood as Deleon and the cat's owners -- told Hair Balls Deleon is appealing the decision. He also told Hair Balls some far-out things that probably weren't intended to make his client sound like a complete moron
To wit: "He wasn't trying to shoot the cat. He was trying to scare the cat out of his backyard."
When we asked if Deleon, who spent four and a half years on the force, could have thrown a rock or a stick or simply made a loud noise to scare off the ferocious beast, Parent replied with a real peach: When Deleon spotted the cat, the closest thing at his disposal was his compound bow. (Boerne Police Chief Jim Kohler initially said the weapon used was a crossbow.)
As best Parent can surmise, Deleon spotted the cat from inside his house, and then opened his sliding glass door and fired while standing halfway in, halfway outside of his house.
"It's one of those things where you just look down, and that's what you got next to you, and there's nothing else around...It was laying there because he had been practicing with it up at his ranch like three days before," he said "...If you look down, and that's what you've got next to you, that's what you grab."
Dang -- it's a good thing he didn't have a hand grenade next to him!
The cat, Bobby, sustained the injury May 21, when he apparently hopped a fence and began to mastermind his attack upon Deleon's garden-box. Bobby's owner, Natalie Brunner, told Hair Balls she was outside, playing with her dogs on the other side of the fence. She said Bobby wears a collar -- except for when she's outside with him, for maybe an hour or two a day. (She said she doesn't want the collar to get caught up on anything.)
When she heard Bobby yelp, she says, she peered over the fence and saw Deleon bending over the cat, pulling out the arrow. Brunner, who works at an animal hospital, was troubled by this action, as an untrained person could potentially cause more damage.
She says that, in her five years in the neighborhood, no neighbors -- including Deleon -- have ever complained about her family's menagerie, which, in addition to Bobby, includes a few dogs and a komodo dragon. Oh, and it also includes children, and she says she's not crazy about the idea of errant arrows soaring so close to her kiddos. (Side note: The proper weapon with which to prevent a feral komodo dragon from treading on your bougainvilleas is not a bow and arrow but an enchanted cut-steel broadsword pulled from a stone.)
"This is not a tomcat with balls, running around the neighborhood, tearing shit up," Brunner says. "It's a housecat who goes outside for maybe an hour a day when we are home. There is no reason for this. This man never contacted us, ever, to say that [Bobby's] ever been in the yard before, that he doesn't like it."
Brunner doesn't believe that Deleon was trying to scare away what he thought was a feral cat.
"My experience in trying to scare anything, whether it be an animal or a human -- you make noise. You do not fire a silent weapon," she says.
Deleon's firing offered some comfort to Brunner, who was shocked when the grand jury no-billed Deleon Tuesday. She felt like Kendall County District Attorney Bruce Curry didn't do his job -- in fact, she claims that no one even asked her to appear at the hearing. She only testified, she says, because she showed up on her own.
"I Googled the definition of a DA, and it says, in quotes, they're the people's attorney. But I don't think he represented me at all," she told Hair Balls.
After checking his notes, Curry told Hair Balls that it's possible he had never asked her to appear, but he says that if she hadn't been there, he would have called for her. However, it sounds like a brief hearing: Curry said that only Brunner and Deleon testified.
When we asked Curry if the grand jury heard testimony from the detective who, like, investigated the alleged crime and stuff, the Kendall County District Attorney seemed a little unsure who we meant: "Who you talking about now when you say the detective?" he said.
Once we were on the same page, he explained with a chuckle that while the detective was present, the grand jury "didn't want to hear him."
Ultimately, he said he has no idea why the grand jury no-billed.
"They heard both sides of it, and I really don't know why," he said. "I don't know."
We left several messages with Boerne Police Lieutenant Steve Peres to find out the official reason for Deleon's dismissal, but we haven't heard back.
Parent, a former police officer, implied that Brunner was at least partly responsible for not keeping an eye on Bobby.
"I have animals," he said. "And I love my animals. But what I do with animals is, I take them to the vet every year and I get a tag, and I put a freaking collar on my animals, and I keep my animals in my backyard...As an animal lover, animal owner, if you really love your animals, you're going to make sure they don't get out."
Hair Balls does that. In our hood, people are constantly shooting animals with arrows, because that's what people do. So, duh!
Parent also stressed that Deleon had no idea the cat belonged to his neighbor. And, really, why would he? It's not like Deleon would be expected to have a keen power of observation, an awareness of surroundings that surpasses the average joe's -- after all, he's only a police officer. And why would a cop have a better-than-average understanding of the activities of the people who live in his immediate vicinity?
Parent also pointed out that bothersome critters are not foreign to the community.
"If he'd have shot a freaking possum in his backyard, you wouldn't be calling me," he said. "If he shot a rat in his backyard, we wouldn't be having this conversation." (All true. We also wouldn't have called him if he shot a squirrel. But we definitely would've called if he shot a Triceratops, because what would a dinosaur be doing in Deleon's garden-box?!)
Parent also lobbed a rhetorical question our way: "I just spent $1,100 doing landscaping in my front yard....Now if I have an animal out here, what kind of animal it is -- if it's a possum, if it's a freakin' armadillo, if it's a coyote, if it's a cat tearing up my freaking $1,100 flower beds that I've built, that I've spent my time on...at what point in time do my rights get trumped by the animal's rights?"
Parent has a point. Deleon showed tremendous courage in standing up for his rights and for not taking any shit from a cat. After all, no one ever accused Deleon of going into Bobby's space and playing with Bobby's ball of yarn, or eating Bobby's catnip, or dropping a deuce in Bobby's litterbox. Deleon knows his boundaries. And he respects them, because he doesn't want anyone shooting him with an arrow.
It's just common sense. And Deleon obviously has it in spades.