Animal control officers identified a man who they believe attacked and severely injured a raccoon in Thurmont last month, charging him with animal cruelty.
Ethan Riley Crocker, 18, of the 8200 block of Rocky Ridge Road, was charged with one count each of aggravated animal cruelty and animal cruelty after officers with the Frederick County Division of Animal Control said he attacked a raccoon with a wrench near Locust and Orchard drives on April 9. A witness caught Crocker on camera at the scene before calling 911 and the photo was released to the public along with a press release April 10, leading to an immediate outpouring of tips from the community, said Sgt. Dave Luckenbaugh, an animal control supervisor.
“He was identified the same day the press release with the photograph was sent out and was interviewed later that day, as well,” Luckenbaugh said, explaining that Crocker admitted to injuring the animal during the interview.
Charges were held to allow animal control officers to gather additional evidence and consult with prosecutors until both criminal counts were filed against Crocker on Friday, Luckenbaugh added.
Maggie Hill, an animal control officer, was first notified of the incident on April 9 when 911 dispatchers alerted her that a woman was reporting a sick or injured raccoon near the intersection of Locust and Orchard. About 10 minutes later, while Hill was still making her way to Thurmont, a second caller reported seeing a man, later identified as Crocker, beating the raccoon with a wrench, Hill said.
“The raccoon was what we call ambulatory when I arrived, meaning it was walking, so it was alert, but it was obviously very seriously injured,” Hill said when reached for comment Tuesday.
The animal was captured in a humane trap and, after inspecting the area, Hill was able to identify an area of grass marked with fresh bloodstains about 15 to 20 feet from where she found the animal, she said. With the assistance of Thurmont police, Hill identified at least one witness and was given a photo of the suspect.
The raccoon was euthanized shortly after its capture, Luckenbaugh said, explaining that raccoons are classified as rabies vector animals in Maryland, meaning any sick or injured adult raccoons found cannot be released into the wild for fear of spreading the virus. If healthy young animals suspected to have been born within a year are found orphaned, they can be taken in and cared for in certain circumstances, Luckenbaugh said.
A sample taken from the raccoon during an examination of its injuries by a veterinarian was tested and later returned negative for rabies, the sergeant said.
While Luckenbaugh could not provide details of the interview between Hill and Crocker, Crocker was ultimately determined criminally responsible.
“I don’t want to go into specific details about what was asked and what was said but we found no information that this animal posed a threat to [Crocker] or any pets,” Luckenbaugh said. “Based on everything we found, we think this was a violent act, one that was deliberate and intentional and unnecessary.”