An 18-year-old Red Oak man was taken into custody Friday relating to the July 5 shooting death of a zebra on HiView Farm near Rockett.
Joshua Romano has been charged with cruelty to animals, with a bond set at $7,500.
“We’ve recovered a .30-30 rifle, a shell casing and the bullet from the animal’s carcass,” said sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Ketchum. “They’re going to be sent to the DPS (Department of Public Safety) lab in Austin for comparison.”
Authorities got a break in the case from an anonymous tipster.
“We followed up on that lead and it all came together,” Ketchum said, saying the investigation led to the suspect and four other males about the same age, who were all occupants of the vehicle involved.
“We’ve talked to everyone and all five are being very cooperative,” Ketchum said. “We don’t believe at this time that this was a premeditated act and the other occupants of the car had no idea of what was about to happen.”
Ketchum said the group was traveling along Farrar Road when the driver said he saw Romano pointing the weapon out the window. The others tried to get him not to shoot and the driver sped up to try to get past the field, Ketchum said, with Romano only able to get one shot off.
“The suspect said he thought he had hit it (the zebra), but the others didn’t know until they saw the news reports,” Ketchum said, saying the weapon belonged to another of the car’s occupants.
“This is a wonderful day for us,” said Lorne McMillan of the arrest. He and his wife, Pat, own HiView Farms on Farm-to-Market 813.
“The two entities that need to get some credit for this being solved are the sheriff’s office and the media,” McMillan said.
He said he and his wife intend to replace the zebra stallion, with McMillan estimating the cost at about $10,000 for an animal and another $2,000 for shipping. Fortunately, he said, the three mares the stallion was with are all in foal.
McMillan hates that one of the couple’s exotic animals was lost to such an act of “gall,” as he describes it, but said he’s glad it wasn’t worse. The stallion had been in a field with the three pregnant mares and the couple’s camels when the shooting occurred.
McMillan hopes to continue to allow the public to see the animals and not move them further into his property to keep them safe.
“We feel selfish if no one else can enjoy them,” he said. “All the time we have people stopping by the fence to see them, feed them.”
McMillan wants to see justice done in the case and said he hopes Romano doesn’t get off with “just a slap on the wrist.”
Better yet, he said if Romano is such a good shot as to drop an animal at 100-plus yards from out of a moving vehicle, then “he needs to be enlisted and sent to Baghdad.”
“He’s already a trained sniper and they’re looking for men like that,” he said. “He’s acting like a terrorist himself. Let him battle with them.”
Ketchum said the tipster, who has asked that he not be identified, turned down the $1,000 reward.
“He said the right thing needed to be done here and that he wanted the McMillans to keep the money and apply it toward getting a new zebra,” Ketchum said.
The case will be filed with the district attorney’s office before being presented to a grand jury.
E-mail JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org