San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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September 23rd, 2008
This Martian Life: For the Love of Dog

I’ve had two dogs in my life that have passed on; A German Shepherd/Collie mix named Aspen and a Bassett Hound named Claire and I loved them both probably more than I loved myself. A dog isn’t just a dog. They’re a true friend and companion. Cats are nice but give me the sloppy unconditional love that only a canine can bring to a sad day. They aren’t pets, they’re members of the family.So, having established my dog loving credentials let me say that it is time to lay off Officer Paul Stephens. Seriously. It’s long past time to move on.

I’m not excusing what Stevens said. It was simply inexcusable. You can’t “just get another one”. However, let’s not let the heart override the head. Let us, instead, look at some very uncomfortable facts.

Michael Gonzales was speeding on I-35; a practice universally understood as not being safe. Weighing the crime of speeding and being pulled over for it versus the life of a dog needing to get to the vet is a no brainer. You pull the speeder over and be thankful that you were able to. If we’re going to make this into a numbers game, as cruel as it may sound, better one dog than a whole family. Sorry folks, but that’s just common sense.

Michael Gonzalez was agitated, as he should be. His dog was dying, or was already dead depending on who you talk to. However, as someone who was just pulled over for speeding and was already in an agitated state I think it was a good call to detain him so he wouldn’t start speeding again. That’s not being cruel. That’s being conscious of public safety.

However, as tragic as Missy’s death was, and the militant insensitivity Stephens showed, this act probably saved human lives. Nobody has a crystal ball and can tell the future, but unsafe is unsafe. Officer Stephens said the wrong thing, but I’m convinced he made the right call, and I’m glad he’s still one of San Marcos’ finest.

If anything I’m pretty comfortable guaranteeing he won’t ever do this again.

Why? Because his life, his family and his home has been threatened. People who were willing to pick up pitchforks and torches for the life on one dog had no problem threatening the most obscene kind of violence towards him as a person and the ones he loves. Hypocrisy anyone?

Folks, if you want to do something about tragedy just look out your door. Something or someone is out there that actually needs help and it’s the height of insincerity, and is in fact insulting, to raise all this fury over a dog while people go hungry or homeless under our noses. How is a dog worthy of more compassion than them? How does that speak to our values? You want to exercise compassion? You want to express moral outrage? Then try standing up for a live human instead of a dead dog. Believe me when I say that one is far more useful and does more to uplift us as a community than the other.

It really is so much easier to sit back and condemn without rolling up your sleeves. The cheap seats do have their charm and Monday morning quarterbacking can be fun. However, how many of us have walked a beat? How many of us know the awesome pressure that comes with being a police officer? Now we aren’t so certain are we? That’s the thing about the cheap seats. The price is right but the view leaves a lot to be desired.

I do not begrudge Michael Gonzales or Krystal Hernandez their grief and I’m not even going to try to minimize it. It’s an awful, unimaginable, pain. However, theirs is the only pain where I see any legitimacy whatsoever. This dog did not belong to the city. It was their dog, not ours. It definitely wasn’t some do-gooder political carpetbagger from San Antonio’s dog either.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about what happened. I’m not asking to sweep this under the rug. I am saying, however, that if we go to such lengths over a dog while ignoring the very real human suffering we see every day then that doesn’t say much about us as a community, does it? It points to some tragically misplaced values. Mourn the dog, yes, but can we please do something about our fellow citizens who endure things that really are worth all this energy and furor. I know the homeless, the sick, the needy, the people that are just trying to make ends meet and the less fortunate aren’t quite as cuddly and sweet as a dog, but they sure as hell are just as, if not absolutely more important than a dog, and are worth of the same level of outrage.

The Mayor and the Police Department made the right call keeping Officer Stephens on the force. I think it would behoove us as a community to adhere to the old rule that everyone should get a second chance. He’ll have a hard road back, but he should have a fair shot.

One mistake, no matter how callous, does not define a career or a life. Nor should it destroy it. It’s time to back off of Officer Stephens.

By SEAN WARDWELL
(Note: the opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author and are not the position of Newstreamz.com or its staff)

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0 thoughts on “This Martian Life: For the Love of Dog

  1. Sean, thank you very much for pulling this all together in such an eloquent, heart-felt, and helpful manner. Your article is the one I will point people to read when they ask what I think about the situation. Thank you again for expressing what so many of us in the community are feeling.

  2. Well said.

    Someone with the time and energy that Patrick Greene appears to have, could do a lot of good for a city like San Marcos. He could build grassroot support for a 24-hour veterinary clinic and combine it with a no-kill shelter while he’s at it. He could work with local vets and volunteers to get to staff the facility and help to identify sources of funding.

    Yep, that kind of passion could really be put to good use.

    If he actually cared about San Marcos.

    But, why do all of that? Nobody outside of San Marcos would ever know about it. He’d never get any press. It wouldn’t fit anywhere in his portfolio of octopus and bumper sticker lawsuits.

    Besides.

    He doesn’t give a rats ass for San Marcos.

  3. “Michael Gonzalez was agitated, as he should be. His dog was dying, or was already dead depending on who you talk to. However, as someone who was just pulled over for speeding and was already in an agitated state I think it was a good call to detain him so he wouldn’t start speeding again. That’s not being cruel. That’s being conscious of public safety.”

    Actually, there is an alternative. Officer Stephens could have escorted Michael Gonzalez to the Vet’s office. This would have kept the speeding to a minimum and satisfied animal lovers.

    His lack of social skills, and his lack of professionalism when faced with an agitated person make me wonder whether it is safe for this man to be walking our streets with a loaded weapon.

  4. Actually I’m quite comfortable with him walking our streets with a loaded weapon. Officer Stephens signed up to be a police officer, not a dog escort officer. Also, and not for nothing here, but who would have been watching the area Officer Stephens was watching while he was driving these people to a vet that was out of his jurisdiction? We don’t have a limitless supply of cops here.

    He said a dumb thing but I still hold that he made the right call. Escorting sick dogs is not in his job description, nor should it be. Satisfying animal lovers is not his job. However, a major part of his job is protecting us from people going at unsafe speeds down the highway, and he did. He did the right thing in the wrong way. So, once again, let’s lay off the guy and stop threatening to kill him and his family or burn down his home or things of that nature and give him a chance to learn from his mistake.

    Instead, let’s go take all this energy we still seem to have over this issue and help some humans that really need it who are probably justifiably agitated that a dog’s life seems to be worth more than theirs.

    Whatya say?

  5. Officer Stephens did do the right thing pulling Gonzalez over, but that is where the legal part ends. It was his and Officer Benders sworn duty to help both the people.
    And get the dog emergency medical help. A dog is property, and the officers are sworn to protect property.
    They violated the Penal Code for cruelty to animals.

  6. Ah, Patrick. I was hoping you’d show up. I had a few questions for you.

    First I think it’s really…really great that you are such an engaged citizen, even in a town you don’t actually live in. That’s just fantastic because us poor San Martians are obviously so inept we need someone, like you for example, to come in uninvited to tell us how to handle our business, inform us of how insensitive and cruel we are, tie up our courts, lead what can only laughably be called a “boycott” and make one man’s life miserable. Way to go! I just can’t wait to have you as a neighbor, should you actually choose to live where you complain.

    My question here though is what your personal stake in this is and were you invited by those that were actually affected by this to unleash your special brand of “activism” on the city (no pun intended)? Usually it’s considered poor form to walk into someone elses house and start telling them what to do. Your ease at doing so is both intriguing and inexplicable.

    Second, are you a lawyer? You speak with some authority on the law therefore I can reasonably assume (based on your absolute understanding of the penal code displayed in your comment) you must have some legal training. Please enlighten our readership as to what it is.

    In short, where does your legitimacy come from? I can’t understand how this effects you unless you personally knew the dog or their owners. Yes, we should all care in a general sense, but your fervor might point to a deeper story…one I’d love to get your side of.

    Sorry for turning the snark up to 11 here but really man, let it go. You don’t live here. It wasn’t your dog. This isn’t your community and, by and large, we don’t need or want your help

    Thanks for reading though and please get back to me about those questions at your convenience.

  7. Dear Mr. Wardwell. My interest began with watching the police video, and seeing Officer Stephens and Officer Bender in action. It was like watching a nightmare. How
    they got away with this is beyond me. A police officer takes an oath to enforce the law. Not just in one city, but while he is a police officer. When the Hays County D.A. told me that she was not going to prosecute, I researched the animal cruelty laws and the responsibilities of police officers in Texas. The officers also violated the city ordinance. But, since I am not a resident, I have to settle with the State Penal Code. If you look at Penal Code 42.092 and 42.09 you will see what I mean. Officer Bender was not medically qualified in veterinary medicine to expertly state that the dog was in fact dead….and could not be resuscitated.

  8. And you, Patrick, are neither a veterinarian nor an attorney are you? Nor were you there that night, were you? So what qualifies you to judge others? But hey, if you want to continue amusing our citizens with your non-productive crusade, go ahead. The time you are wasting is your own.

  9. Adam, have you seen both Officer Stephens and Officer Bender’s police videos in their entirety? I have many times. Both officers were atrocious. Have you spoken to any veterinarians anywhere? I have spoken to many.

  10. While you all have your “opinions”, that is all you have. If it should go before a grand jury it should. Any other place but here it most likely would. this has recieved much national attention as well as overseas. While their are many that are triuphing the officers their are still many out there outraged by the way he handled a situation once he knew what it was. After that is where it is so very obvious that they were insincere in handling the situation. I can name many many other times where officers have been quick to judge. If I may remind you of a potential drowning in our river? The little 12 year old boy who was stabbing his mother in the neck that was shot at point blank range in the back by one officer who chose not to kick or tackle the 100 pound boy but blam blew him away in front of all his family members. While officer Stephens is taking much critisim it is my belief that it is because no one really has the answers to what kind of counseling he reiceved and for how long and what it particularly pretainted too. While we all know the city council does want to let this go. We all should remember that this SHOULD be a wake up call to everyone. He doesn’t need his life or family threatened. that is just vigil antiism. However if the above mentioned questions were answered and maybe even let it go to trial then maybe all would be satidfied. I ahve myself been informed by peopel who do know the law either through mere research or an actual license in practicing law and yep the dog is property. People jsut keep getting aggrivated becasue so many questions are left unanswered. I feel confident in our police cheif I just wanted more answers. For this town to be so small and have university police to mainly handle Texas State and the city police to handle our little city, I just cannot phathom how both officers thought at the time their actions would not be questioned by anyone involved. By no means does anyone need to lose their job for a mistake that was obivoulsy emapthetic fueled by the two officers acting with each other. I could go on but I am waiting. And to the Author quit trying to demena people for actually knowing facts. You shouldn’t write such an artlcle and then put down your readers for their comments. Shame on you. They can speak just as much as you can. you asked for it now deal with the fact you may be wrong somewhere and openly discuss the issue at hand rather than attmept to be little peopel for what ever reason you are trying to fill in your self.

  11. What I would like to know is why, when this newspaper interviewed the Chief of Police, his description of how the incident went, is not what the police video showed.
    Officer Stephens twice told the driver that he was going over 100 m.p.h. Then how come the Chief told the interviewer that the driver was going 85 m.p.h
    He also said that Officer Bender did not get to the car until Officer Stephens had already taken a look inside.
    When the police video showed Bender already at the car, with the passenger door open, when Stephens looked in.
    It’s like Chief Williams was describing a different traffic stop.

  12. What is a private citizen supposed to do, when police officers have violated the penal code, and none of their
    superiors will do anything about it?

  13. I would like to extend a cordial invitation to Officers Stephens and Bender, to the community meeting on October 18th at 1:00p.m. at the library.

  14. Thank you for the info on the meeting. I bet those officers however will continue to have others speak for them on their behalf, not that that is necessarliy agaisnt protocol. However if a trial is to take place I would bet with a little media reminder people all over the country and abroad would be there to contribute to the legal defense because it seems like that is also a main key note on what is being ignored. Again my apologies to Krystal for losing her best friend as well as the officers who both chose to be incredibly insensitive and not help the situation, becasue I believe when ya talk to someone the way they did it makes a situation wordse and this should be 101 here. I hope they do not consider that stop a joke and it is something that is setting in as such at the police dept because both I believe were very insensative. Oh and did ya hear about hte lady who was rushing to say goodbye to her mother and got stopped with her husband behind her and she was telling the officer why she was speeding and he kept her waiting while her mother was dying and the husband thought he was going to have to step in between the two. Well that scares the hell out of me if something like that should ever happen whether it be my best friend or family. Maybe they are over sensitive who knows but ther are so many examples that if this should have taken place in Austin then there would have been a mandatory meeting taking place. But then again there is that dusty lil rug.

  15. I agree with you completely. I will prove at the meeting that both officers violated the City of San Marcos Code of Ordinance, and the Texas State Penal Code. It is the part of the code for cruelty to non-livestock animals.
    They are both misdemeanors and felonies.
    I am also going to spread a petition all over town, to demand that the city discipline the officers appropriately, for violating the law, and their oaths as sworn peace officers.

  16. Oh my goodness… still on this topic. Two people put my kids life in danger by driving recklessly. We should let this story die… just like the dog.

  17. Jeremy, this story will not die, until the appropriate discipline is used against the two officers who violated the Penal Code. Yes the driver was reckless. But, if your pet was in life or death situation, and there was no emergency vet clinic near you…….what would you do?
    If you would do anything other than what these two people did, I would like to know what you would do. If you are afraid that your loved your pet like a member of the family, how far would you go to save its life?

  18. Well Patrick, if I had a sick pet I certainly would not drive 90 or 100 mph down the freeway like a maniac at night!! Those two acted stupid and brought this upon themselves when they could have gotten to New Braunfels safely by driving the speed limit! Why you are so obsessed with this is beyond me {or any reasonable person}. And to think that you suggest the officers should have escorted this dog at high speed outside their jurisdiction? That calls into question your so-called authority about the law ’cause the officers would have been fired for doing so by any city! Might I suggest you seek some counseling yourself for your obsession for the sake of your family and friends. And I agree with other writers, it seems like you could use your energy taking care of problems in your city before trying to tell us what to do here. We’ve done fine without you. And please, Newstreamz, isn’t it time to quit giving this guy such dominant play and 15 seconds of fame?

  19. Election year? How about Patrick Greene for dog catcher?
    Afterall, his bark is worse than his bite!!!

  20. It’s the price of free speech Diane and we aren’t in the censorship business.

    However, we have let Mr. Greene know that Newstreamz will no longer pursue or report any further stories on this matter unless they originate from city government (not him). I think it can be universally agreed that Mr. Green has had his fair say.

  21. MR. Wardwell,
    Are you saying that, if these police officers did violate the law in the handling of this matter, that if the city government decides not to take any action, that it is perfectly O.K. with Newstreamz.com? That these officers should be able to escape punishment, and that I should just keep completely quiet about it. Anotherwords, the death of a dog means nothing to anyone?

  22. I am in the process of writing a book about this matter, and I am going to write it in the way of the Police video of Officers Stephens and Benders cameras. All money from the book will go to The Texas Municipal Police Officers Association. They believe in Professionalism in enforcement.

  23. I get the idea from Diane, that if her pet were in the same condition, that she would drive normal speed and if her pet dies……….well, she can get another one. It is not important.

  24. Diane is correct. The officers cannot escort the people to another city, or they will be disciplined. However, after calling several cities in Texas, every officer I spoke to said that, if it were up to them, they would let them go, so they can care for their pet.

  25. Get real Patrick! You didn’t call “several cities” and find officers willing to let speeders go like that… if you did, then please prove it by naming the officers and cities so we can verify your account….
    And I doubt that the Association will get any money ’cause your book sales {unless you fabricate the story like your phone calls} will not even be enough to pay for your printing { ’cause real publishers will laugh at your idea}…. At least now you’ve exposed yourself to your real motives–creating a name for yourself. Why not write a book about a guy who lives in one city and distorts a story in another town just to make himself known? that should be simple, an autobiography.
    If you really cared so much about pets then you would spend your time adopting the ones sitting in animal shelters, or at least volunteering at one. And why don’t you do something about the people who abuse their own pets in your city? Where are those letters/stories?
    Do you not care about their pets? Are those animals not worth saving?

  26. So Patrick, you think that Diane {or anyone else} should speed and endanger countless other children, pets, and adults by racing at high speed illegally on the freeway at night??? That is neither logical nor sane.

  27. OK I too have spken with officers in other cities as well as read their comments in the Austin American Statesman as well as heard them on tv and they would have helped the situation and maybe even issued them a ticket for going 85 which I do normally going to Austin, shoot me. Anywhoo… There is northing wrong in pursuing the case at hand. Might I mention several others who are familiar if not an expert agree with Patrick that the officers did violate one or more penal codes. I am sorry for the people that think this issue is pathetic. I also cannot bellieve this Sean guy is threatening not submitting what PAtrick has to say. Very ver very disturbing. Who is he to write such an article and make these decisions? Is he in charge here? This makes me quite angry with what newstreamz was supposed to represent which is freedom of speach and not let the political powers or whomever decide what should be printed such as the Sn Marcos daily record does regularly. If I do not see anymore from Patrick I will be calling Newstreamz myself along wih oh petitions whatever necessarily to stop the Sean guy form thinking he is in charge of censoring what is and able to be responded to just because someone doesn’t agree with him at ALL. I read the article and appreciated it for what it was worth but I also disagree. Are you gonna stop posting me like a little boy? There are people out their regular peopel and therre are people who have some political backgrounds or are currently serving a community adn there azre lawyers, animal rights activists etc all readint this online paper and ya know what SEAN you are not in charge deal with it. If Patrick feels the way he does then he does. I am so sick of people putting down people for being passionate about something and sticking to it. It is a natural reaction to speed if your kid is locked out of the house at night. If there is a fire or what the hell ever. You all need to wuit attacking people for caring about this. How dare you Sean and Diana get over YOURSELF.

  28. Sean is not threatening to censor Mr Greene, he is stating a standard journalistic practice of keeping opinion out of the News section.

    Mr. Greene can submit opinion posts all he wants, but until such time as some lawsuit is filed or something official happens in the case, it is not News – it is opinion and discussion. Something we hold dear.

  29. Well good to know. However he did write the article as an opinion based article soley from himself. He may have been told of others opinions but what was wrtten came dirctly from himself and his own views. While I find this paper much more interesting by being able to read otthers opions on articles. It makes it unique and many many papers do this as well. Those people weren’t just having a bad day and that is the way people are treating it. It wasn’t just oh to bad so sad bad day to them and I wish people would stop treating it as such.

  30. This is to Sean Wardwell. On September 30th, you asked me about my legal knowledge, and why I am butting into a community without being invited.
    When it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, neither you nor I need an invitation. I am sure that, if you saw an animal being abused, you would not ask the abuser if you can interfere. That would be a very stupid question.
    Well, I saw the entire police video of Officer Stephens and Officer Bender. I also saw the entire interview that Andy recorded with the Chief of Police. It was so filled with mistakes, it was like he was talking about a different traffic stop.
    I can tell you right now, when I get back the letter from the city denying my claim, my next step will be the district court, to have a judge decide whether the officers violated the Penal code on cruelty to animals.
    But why don’t you tell me your opinion.
    Here is what the Texas Penal Code defines as “Custody” of a non-livestock animal. It is chapter 42 section 42.092

    (4) “Custody” includes responsibility for the health,
    safety, and welfare of an animal subject to the person’s care and
    control, regardless of ownership of the animal.

    With this definition in mind, answer me this question:
    A man has ownership and custody of a dog which is choking to death on food.
    He is rushing him to a veterinary clinic at about midnight.
    A police officer pulls him over for speeding.
    The officer tells the man to get out of the car and stay at the back of the car.
    IF the officer forces the man to stay where he is, would that meet the legal definition
    of the officer now has “Custody” of the dog”?
    And, if he ignores the plight of the dog, is the officer violating the penal code, in animal cruelty?
    Thank you
    Patrick Greene

  31. Patrick,
    Hmm.. perhaps you should consult an attorney or judge or anyone who has actually been to law school which apparently you have not. In other words, your logic is faulty. But, go ahead and spend your money.

  32. Please Patrick, file yur lawsuit quickly! The sooner you do, the sooner you will lose and your 15 seconds of fame will be over in San Marcos!!!

  33. I think Newstreamz is doing an excellent job of letting Patrick exercise his right to freedom of speech.

    Patrick maybe I can write part of the book with you 😉 There may be a little PROFIT in it for all of us!

  34. Hey Jeremy, if you believe Patrick’s alleged book will actually sell, then I’ve got some swamp land in Louisiana you might want to buy! As for Patrick, Ted is right in that he should concentrate on candidates WHERE HE LIVES
    and not try to drag his crusade in front of people who are tired and ready to move on, accomplishing something positive in life rather than going on… and on… and on… over a non-issue.

  35. On August 21st, the Mayor stated that the city needs a 24 hour pet clinic. As of today not one city council member has put this on the agenda. So far, Missy died for nothing.

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