Ricardo Salvador Plascenia, 19, was booked on suspicion of animal cruelty Monday, shortly after neighbors heard his dog, Mary Jane, screaming and crying, police said. The black 50-pound pit bull, which was slammed to the concrete in an alleged crime caught on video, was taken to an animal hospital. On Tuesday, she cowered in her cage but was said to be in good condition.
"She's actually a very, very good girl," Hawthorne animal control officer Helen Coronel said. "She's very timid. I don't blame her."
A neighbor in the 4000 block of 141st Street called Hawthorne police about 4:30 p.m. Monday to report that he had seen Plascenia hanging his dog in the backyard, Lt. Gary Tomatani said.
The neighbor told police he heard cries, yelping and screaming and believed a dog had been run over by a car.
He went outside to see what was making the noise, looked over the fence and saw Plascenia repeatedly punching and kicking the dog, Tomatani said. "He then picked the dog up and slammed the dog forcibly onto its back on the concrete," Tomatani said. "He then dragged the dog by its neck to a pole in the back yard, put a choke chain on it and hoisted the dog vertically into the air."
The witness told police that Plascenia beat the dog in the chest as she hung from the chain, Coronel said.
It was unclear why Plascenia stopped.
"He probably got tired," Coronel said. "She defecated over herself. He left her hanging for a while."
When police arrived, the dog had been taken down.
An officer looked into the backyard and saw Plascenia carrying a potted marijuana plant. The dog followed him into a converted garage at the rear of the property.
Plascenia was called to the front door and was arrested. Police spotted a second potted marijuana plant inside the garage, Tomatani said.
In addition to suspected felony animal cruelty, Plascenia was held on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana.
A man who answered the door at Plascenia's home refused to identify himself, but defended Plascenia, saying he was tying up the dog so she couldn't get out.
"He wasn't beating the dog," the man said. "The dog broke the fence. The dog was trying to let itself out."
The man said Plascenia had the dog since it was born, less than a year ago.
Asked if he would be upset if the video showed Plascenia abusing the dog, the man said, "Of course. I love dogs."
Coronel said Mary Jane will be taken to the Carson animal shelter, where she will be kept during the court case. Ultimately, she will be put up for adoption.
"He's not getting her back," Coronel said.
The animal control officer said a witness used a cellular telephone to record the beating. Police confirmed that a videotape exists, but did not release it.
Update May 26, 2010 7:43pm - The Daily Breeze is reporting that prosecutors are holding off on charging Plascenia with animal cruelty charges.
Instead, the case was sent back to police to gather more evidence to support charges, including a medical report on the dog's condition.
"We're waiting for the documentation of the injuries, if any, sustained by the victim animal," Deputy District Attorney Amy-Hannah Broersma said.
Some of the beating was captured on the neighbor's cellular telephone digital recorder. "The video absolutely shows the dog suspended in the air by its neck by some sort of cord or rope," Hawthorne police Lt. Gary Tomatani said.
The cord is strung over the T-bar for a clothesline, police said.
Animal control officials took the dog to a veterinarian. She did not suffer major injuries. Tomatani said police officers already have contacted the veterinarian to obtain the report.
Plascenia has provided no explanation for what allegedly happened, police said.
Plascenia was expected to be released from custody sometime today, and could not be reached for comment.
Update July 4, 2010 8:30pm - The following article is by Larry Altman, Contra Costa Times:
Hawthorne dog-abuse suspect disappears
A Hawthorne man released from jail in May after he allegedly beat his dog and hanged the animal from a cord has been charged with committing animal cruelty.
But Ricardo Salvador Plascenia can't be found.
Hawthorne police detectives are trying to locate the 19-year-old man so he can be brought to court to face felony charges in the assault on "Mary Jane," his 50-pound pit bull, Lt. Gary Tomatani said.
Detectives returned to Plascenia's home in the 4000 block of 141st Street last week, but Plascenia and other residents of the rented house were gone, Tomatani said.
Officers, so far, have not found any forwarding addresses.
Plascenia was arrested May 24, shortly after his neighbors heard his dog screaming and crying, police said.
Plascenia allegedly beat, punched and kicked the dog, slamming the animal to the concrete pavement.
He allegedly then attached a cord to her neck and strung it over a clothesline pole to hoist the animal into the air, police said.
Some of the alleged crime was recorded on a neighbor's cell phone video. The video shows the dog suspended in the air, police said.
Plascenia provided no explanation for what happened. Officers found marijuana plants in his house.
Authorities confiscated the dog and took her to a shelter. The dog suffered no serious injuries, police said.
Although Plascenia was in jail, he was released two days later because prosecutors asked for a medical report to document the animal's condition before deciding whether to file charges. The case was sent back to police for more investigation.
Police obtained the report and felony animal cruelty charges were filed last month, Tomatani said.
Now, police need to find Plascenia.
Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact Hawthorne police at 310-349-2727.