Enfield man told his son to shoot hunting beagles, police say

By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Enfield, Suffield - posted Thu., Jan. 10, 2013
John Lake was charged in connection with the shooting death of three beagles. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Following more than a month-long investigation, an Enfield man has been charged in connection with the November 2012 shooting deaths of three hunting beagles. John Lake, 54, of 28 Locke Drive, admitted to ordering his 13-year-old son to shoot the three dogs because they interfered with their attempts to hunt deer off Route 159 near Bridge Street and Boston Neck Road. Suffield Police Chief Michael Manzi said Lake turned himself in to Suffield police on Jan. 2, after learning of the warrant for his arrest.

According to Manzi, Lake and his son were on private property hunting deer at the same time as Richard Johnson, the owner of the beagles. Manzi said both parties had proper rights and documentation to be on the private property hunting at the same time. Johnson, 83, of Hartford, took his five beagles, one with a cowbell around its neck, to go out on their scurry to flush out rabbits and pheasant to hunt, and in this particular case, only two came back.

Manzi and some other officers went out to assist and find the missing dogs because of a complaint of three beagles on private property. Manzi said that this is common for animals to run off in the wild during these types of situations, and that the animals are usually located. In this instance, police spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to find them, to no avail. Through past experience and common practice, Johnson came back the following day, as well as days after that, in an attempt to find his animals because the dogs typically return to the location where they began hunting.

On Nov. 10, Dan Rollett was cutting wood on his property at 435 East St. South when he discovered the beagles in a ditch covered by leaves, brush and debris. He alerted the police immediately and a police officer and animal control officer arrived at the scene and found the dogs had been shot and their collars removed. During some investigation around the wooded area, the officer found a deer stand in a tree in close proximity to the dogs.

The following day, Lt. Rick Brown of SPD followed up on the deer stand and found a juvenile hunter in the stand alone. He questioned the teenager in regard to the shooting and he said he told the officer he was instructed by his father to shoot the beagles. The son made contact with his father via cell phone because he was also hunting with him some distance away. Police said Lake arrived at the son’s tree stand winded and out of breath and talked to Brown.

During his time talking with Brown, Manzi said that Lake was mistaken about a law which states that it is legal to shoot dogs that are chasing or harassing deer. Manzi said that the law Lake was misinterpreting is only applicable to law enforcement officers and permits them to shoot a domestic dog if it is scaring wildlife.

Manzi also said that during the joint investigation by the Suffield Police Department and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the collars of the animals were never recovered. Lake said he removed the collars to find the owner of the beagles.

Lake was charged with cruelty to animals by complicity (misdemeanor), unlawful discharge of a firearm by complicity (misdemeanor), injury or risk of injury to or impairing the morals of children (felony) and illegal hunting by a minor (violation).

Manzi said that the son was not charged in the incident and that all charges for Lake that say "with complicity" mean "under the direction, tutelage or guidance of the responsible person," which in this case would be Lake.

Anyone over the age of 12 is allowed to hunt in Connecticut as long as they have a permit, but anyone under 18 needs to be supervised by an adult. State statute does not specify a required distance between an adult and a minor while they are hunting together.

“The charges were explicitly related to that,” Manzi said. “You’re a responsible father, you should be with your son, not to leave him alone and perch him and give him directions to shoot these beagles.”

Lake was released on a $5,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Enfield Superior Court on Jan. 15.

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