On September 19, 2005 Randa Burrows was walking her dog on the Arroyo Mocho Trail that winds through many residential neighborhoods in Livermore California. Randa said, “I heard a cat screaming in pain. It sounded like the cat was being tortured; I started to run in the direction of the cries, when a cat came running from the backyard of 473 Daiseyfield Drive.” Randa heard a popping and cracking sound and looked up to see another cat dropping branch to branch from a tree, and a man aiming an air gun rifle repeatedly shooting as the cat fell. Randa screamed at the man telling him she was going to call the police. He smirked and said, “Go ahead it’s my yard, I can do whatever I want on my property.” Randa said, “No you can’t, you can’t shoot animals.” While Randa kept the man busy the second cat managed to escape by running past her.
Randa called the Livermore Police Department. When officers Batrez and Custodia arrived Randa gave them a detailed description of the man. The officers then contacted the homeowner who was identified by his California Drivers License as James Cable (see photo at left). According to the police report by Officer Batrez, he asked Cable if he was shooting a rifle in his backyard and he said, “Yes”. I asked him to explain to me what happened. Cable said, “I was shooting cats in my backyard because I don’t like cats, I can do what ever I want on my property.” Officer Batrez then walked over to where Randa Burrows was waiting and said, “Well that’s it, he admitted it, you can have him arrested.” Randa signed the citizen’s arrest form. James Cable was handcuffed, charged with Felony Cruelty to Animals, and taken away for booking and then released on $10,000 bail.
Because of the outrage and support from the community, Voices For Pets was able to increase the reward to $6,000. Friends of The Oakland Animal Shelter offered a reward of $500, In Defense of Animals called to say they were adding $2,500, Humane Farming Association added $5,000, East Bay S.P.C.A. offered $5,000, East Bay Regional Park District offered $1,000 and Contra Costa S.P.C.A. added $1,000 for a total of $21,000. Voices For Pets then printed new reward posters and mailed 200 to homes in the neighborhood where the goats were killed.
Voices For Pets received many phone calls from the community, but nothing concrete. Then, on Friday evening June 1, I received a call with information that could lead law enforcement to the killer. The caller said they did not want to be known as a snitch in the neighborhood and have their family harmed. I promised the caller confidentiality and that I would only reveal their name with the caller’s permission. I said, “There is a big difference between being a tattletale, and protecting defenseless victims.” The caller said they understood that, and had talked it over with their family which was why they were making the call.
I immediately called Sgt. Dave Cronin of the City of Oakland Police Department. He was the temporary head of Oakland’s Animal Control, and was named in the media as the person in charge of investigating the goat killings. I reached a recording that asked anyone with information in the goat killings to leave a message. I left a message telling him that I had received information in response to the reward poster, and asked him to return my call. This was Friday evening June 1st, and I did not expect to hear from him until Monday.
Monday came and went with no return call from Sgt. Cronin. On both June 5th and June 6th I called again leaving the same message with the same result. On June 8th I received a message on my phone from a Sgt. Campbell asking me to call her. I called three times and left messages, and have never heard back from her. Switching contacts caused me concern as I recognized the switch as a common stonewalling tactic designed to cause confusion and create deniability.
On both June 11th and June 14th I again called and left messages for Sgt. Cronin. I called again on June 15th and Sgt. Cronin picked up. According to my phone records we talked for 9 minutes. To avoid alerting the killer I will characterize the conversation below. The statements that I attribute to myself or to Sgt. Cronin are in quotes.
I explained to Cronin that I had promised the caller confidentiality and asked, “How does that work with you?” Cronin said, “Yea people can be completely confidential but we still have to be able to make the case. Do you think the information makes sense?” I told Cronin what I had and my thoughts on how the information could lead to the killer without involving the caller. Cronin said, “Yea that would be the key.”
Before I could give him the detail that would allow him to check out the lead, Sgt. Cronin cut me off and asked, “Are you going to be around all day today?” I said, “I am going to be around and I will have my phone near me, so would you mind calling me back?” Cronin said, “Yea, I will call you as soon as I get back in my office. I will be back in my office by noon, and I will call you back, and we can look at the case.” I asked, “Sometime around noon?” Cronin said, “sometime about noon or 12:30.”
I also told Cronin that I had found some shell casings at the site, picked them up carefully, and put them in a plastic bag. I asked Cronin if the responding officer had picked up any shell casings where the goats were killed. Cronin responded, “All right let me call you around 12:30.” I said, “That would be great I look forward to hearing from you.” Cronin replied, “I will talk to you this afternoon.”
I had the feeling I would not hear back from Sgt. Cronin. Although we talked for nine minutes, he never asked for the central piece of information that would allow him to check out the lead, and when I got close to giving that to him, he cut me off and changed the subject. I waited by the phone all afternoon with my notes in front of me. Cronin did not call as he said he would. It’s been six months and I still have not heard from him!
So what’s going on? Why would law enforcement give me such a run around? I can tell you from fourteen years of trying to obtain justice in cruelty to animal cases that Cronin’s response is routine. Were there other calls from the community concerning the goat killing case that were ignored? We, the people who pay for police services, are not allowed to know. I understand the need for law enforcement to withhold certain information in an active investigation, but it is too often used to hide indifference. It is more about serving and protecting the image and power of law enforcement than in serving and protecting the people of the community.
In a May 23rd Contra Costa Times article Sgt. Cronin said, “Unless someone calls in with information about who did this, it’s unlikely we will be able to identify a suspect”. In other media reports he said that some of the goats were taken to the Oakland Animal Shelter and would be examined for recovery of bullets and other evidence. Was this done? Or, was this just more posturing? Could it be that no evidence was ever collected, not even shell casings? Could it be that Sgt. Cronin does not want to know who killed the goats because there was no investigation, and anything that came to light would prove embarrassing?
In walking the neighborhood to hand out reward posters I talked to many people. It is an integrated neighborhood of good people who are working hard for a piece of the American dream. What would have been law enforcement’s response had this happened in a more affluent neighborhood? If a minimum of fifteen shots rang out in the middle of the night, two hundred feet from an elementary school, would the area have been cordoned off? Would there have been a helicopter in the sky with a searchlight? We all pay taxes. Law Enforcement will tell us that they need more money. They always seem to be able to put together a multitask force to go after people sharing weed, or to go after two consenting adults, calling it prostitution.
This is about the killing of fifteen baby goats, but it goes beyond that. There is still a sadistic, cowardly punk with a gun in our community. I believe that all violent crime against defenseless victims deserves the highest priority.
Leads grow old, memories fade. As I mentioned, it has been over 6 months since I first talked with Sgt Cronin. I believe the lead still needs to be followed. At this point I’m not willing to give information or physical evidence to the Oakland Police Department only to have it thrown it into the garbage behind the wall of silence.
I want to talk about law enforcement’s wall of silence. Both good and bad cops live behind that wall. A few are bullies who are into dominance and control who got into law enforcement for the badge and power. Most of them are basically good people who got into law enforcement to make a positive difference, then went along to get along and became part of the problem. They wanted to fit in. They didn’t want to be known as a snitch. They didn’t want to be passed over for a promotion. They didn’t want to be a disgruntled former employee.
People will never take back the streets. We will not be able to stop the senseless violence on the streets of Oakland and elsewhere until we gain true citizens oversight of law enforcement.
So what do we do if we can’t turn to the police for help? Who do we turn to?
At this point I believe our best hope is the Honorable Mayor of Oakland, Ron Dellums. When he ran for mayor, he didn’t have the endorsement of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, but he did have the support of voters, and was elected to represent the people. He campaigned on a promise of open government and transparency. That word means nothing if he can’t help the citizens of Oakland work effectively with law enforcement.
Please contact the mayor to ask him to look into the goat killing case, share the current status of the case with the public, and push for an investigation that will lead to a successful conclusion, i.e. the apprehension of the perpetrator.
Write, call, or email Mayor Dellums at:
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 3rd Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
Email: [email protected]
We look forward to your help and support in this case.
Livermore Cat Shooting
Dear Pet Lover:
This is the story of an animal cruelty case with a bizarre twist. Randa Burrows witnessed the shooting of a cat, reported the incident to the police, and filed a police report. The cruelty case was never tried, but Randa found herself being sued in Court for libel and false arrest. The story of this injustice follows.