Texas police are waving the “Satanism” flag after a teen killed his family’s Chihuahua. Photo by Flickr user Celladoor.
What is it about Texas? This week, Rio Grande Valley’s Action 5 News reported that 18-year-old Joseph Adam Ortiz slashed the throat of his family’s pet Chihuahua. Primera police Chief Joe Rodriguez apparently couldn’t get through retelling the story without mumbling something incoherent about Satanism:
“The grandson used a kitchen knife. We heard he slit the dog’s throat. Yes, that’s what we have at this time. It’s just scary information that we have right now. Apparently there’s some reference to Satan or satanic. That’s what we’re getting right now, but that’s still under the investigation process to see if that is true.”
So, let’s see. Actual known facts:
1. The name of the alleged perpetrator
2. The type of dog
3. Whose dog it was
4. The weapon used
5. The method of injury
Aspects still under investigation:
1. “Some reference to Satan or Satanic.”
What does that even mean? Why would a police chief mention it at all, let alone to a reporter, who’s going to print it for thousands or millions of people to read, if they’re not even sure it’s a valid statement? And why would a news outlet, whose reports are meant to create a record of the definitive facts of a crime, repeat information that hadn’t yet been verified?
There are really very few reasons that people, especially young people, torture or kill animals. Animal abuse among teens is one of the hallmarks of sociopathic behavior, especially among those who go on to become killers. In some ways, it’s a way to vent frustration. In another, it’s a rehearsal for killing people. According to FBI Special Agent Alan Brantly:
Animal cruelty is mainly used to vent frustration and anger the same way firesetting is. Extensive amounts of humiliation were also found in the childhoods of children who engaged in acts of animal cruelty. During childhood, serial killers could not retaliate towards those who caused them humiliation, so they chose animals because they [animals] were viewed as weak and vulnerable. Future victim selection is already in the process at a young age. Studies have found that those who engaged in childhood acts of animal cruelty used the same method of killing on their human victims as they did on their animal victims.
Now, I’m not saying that Ortiz is a sociopath anymore than I’m saying he’s a Satanist (or not). What I am saying, however, is that paying attention to Satanism — whether or not it’s a factor in this case, and chances are good it isn’t — will distract from the very real possibility that Ortiz may do this again, or that he may choose a human victim next time. Now is when intervention is important. (In fact, it was probably important years ago.) Neighbors told reporters that Ortiz had been “acting strangely” the week before the act. Like “sweeping the entire street” strangely.
Parents, teachers, police, community members: if a child in your neighborhood is abusing animals, it’s time to step in and get help for that child. Don’t wait. And don’t listen to police and reporters who want to scare you with tales of the Devil instead.