A dispute over the ownership of a dog between Radford City Police and a Radford University freshman has ensued following a drug bust that occurred last week.
Gabriel Eduardo Yus Baez, 18, was arrested Wednesday, Feb. 8 on illegal drug and firearm charges after police served a search warrant on his residence in the 600 block of Downey Street.
Seized as part of the investigation was 14 ounces of cocaine, three pounds of marijuana, two grams of MDMA, one firearm and $25,375 in cash. Also seized was an approximately eight-week-old male Labrador Retriever-Dachshund puppy named Peanut.
At the time of Baez’s arrest, he told the arresting officers that the dog was his, so police took the dog into custody, because they could not leave the animal alone, Lt. Andy Wilburn said in a recent email to the Radford News Journal.
But RU freshman Angelina Jacob, 18, claims that Baez was only watching the dog while she was in class. She said that Baez, who is being held at the New River Valley Regional Jail, told her over the phone that he told police the dog was his because he was unsure of what they would do with it had he not.
Jacob said that she met Baez at the beginning of the fall semester, and they have been friends since. She said he agreed to watch the puppy for her while she was in class, because her boyfriend had not yet filled the appropriate paperwork to keep the dog at his apartment.
Jacob said that she and her boyfriend, who requested not to be named, have tried to explain their situation to police in person and over the phone multiple times since the dog was taken Feb. 8, but have not been successful so far.
She and her boyfriend have both said that they have nothing to do with the crimes Baez has been accused of, nor have police questioned them about his activities.
She said that she had just gotten the dog the night before after responding to a Craigslist ad from someone in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on the evening of Feb. 7.
Jacob has the email transcript of her and the woman she bought the dog from that is time stamped starting Feb. 7 and early Feb. 8 (around 2 a.m.) when she received the dog. The emails show that the seller wanted to get rid of the dog that night, otherwise she could not guarantee that it would be available the next day.
Jacob said she tried to show these emails to multiple officers at the police station but they were not interested in seeing them.
Wilburn said that multiple people have tried to claim ownership of the dog since it went into police custody, and nobody that came forward provided any proof that the dog belonged to them.
Jacob said that she is not aware of anyone else claiming to own the dog, but her boyfriend had called on Jacob’s behalf, as well as he and a few friends accompanying her to the station while trying to get the dog back
Another problem for Jacob is that Baez also signed a document giving ownership of the dog to the police, leading them to further believe that the dog belonged to him. Jacob said that Baez told her over the phone that he didn’t know what he was signing at the time.
Her boyfriend was arrested Monday for what she says was “harassment” for repeatedly calling and visiting the station to try and retrieve the dog. In a statement to the Radford News Journal, spokesperson Jenni Wilder denies those claims.
“[Name redacted] was arrested for identity fraud, profane and threatening language over a public airway, and annoying phone calls. His arrest has nothing to do with her efforts to get possession of the dog. Once again, they have never produced any documents establishing ownership of the dog, and we have uncovered evidence indicating that dog belonged in fact to the person who was in possession of it.”
Jacob said that her boyfriend’s arrest has kept her from further contacting police out of fear of facing the same consequences, and that she does have additional evidence to go along with the email chain.
She has photos of her with the dog just after buying it from Snapchat (a phone app for taking and sharing photos) that show her with the dog, as well as a time, date and location stamp that cannot be forged or altered.
She and the RCPD both acknowledge that officers have not seen these photos, but Jacob said that she would like to use them as evidence to get her dog back.
Since the dog is still a puppy, Wilder said that the animal shelter does not have a proper facility to house the animal, so it is currently with a foster family until it is old enough to go to the shelter or is old enough to be adopted.
Jacob has said that she tried to contact the person who sold her the dog, but they have been reluctant to help. In the email chain, the seller said that she would call the police station but Wilder said that the RCPD is not aware of any such call.
When asked by the Radford News Journal what proof Jacob could use to get the dog back, Wilburn said, “That’s a good question. There are a variety of ways a person can prove ownership. From vet records, receipt from an actual seller or others.”
Jacob does not have any of those, although the dog was advertised as having its shots. She believes that may be why the original owner has been reluctant to help.
The email chain and the picture match up with her story, and she hopes to have another opportunity to plead her case with the RCPD.
Jacob said that she suffers from anxiety and purchased the animal to be a “therapy animal.”
“I just want my dog back. That is all I want,” Jacob said.