PHILADELPHIA -- Deer hunters aim to kill, not wound. Sometimes, they have to track a deer after it's shot, following a blood trail so they can put the animal down for good.
But two Jefferson County teens who wounded a whitetail deer while rifle hunting in November took out their phones instead, and filmed themselves kicking the dying animal in the head. The teens pulled off one of the buck's antlers and stood on its legs. They were laughing through most of the graphic video.
The video was shared on Snapchat and quickly went viral worldwide, with condemnation coming from hunters, among other groups. Many were calling for immediate charges, for the teens to never be allowed to hunt legally again.
"We all know what it is like to take the life of an animal and at times it's not easy," one man wrote on a Pennsylvania hunting group's page. "That animal should have been put out of its pain immediately. "
On Friday, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced charges against Alexander Brock Smith, 18, and Cody Hetrick, 17, both from Brookville, a small town 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Both teens were charged with felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty and felony counts of conspiracy, along with other misdemeanor and summary counts.
Smith is the stepson of Brookville's police chief. He was arraigned on Friday and released on $50,000 unsecured bail.
"It's easy to understand why people were outraged by the incident," Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners President Tim Layton said in a statement.
The teens told investigators they were hunting together on Nov. 30 from an enclosed, elevated tree stand on property Smith's family owns in Beaver Township, Jefferson County. Hetrick shot and wounded a buck, then missed with a follow-up shot at just 10 yards, according to an affidavit. They were out of ammo and told investigators they had left a knife in the car, so they "began to repeatedly kick and stomp the deer" in an attempt to kill it.
Along with potential prison terms, the charges against the teens come with "multiple years of hunting license revocation." The Game Commission, in its press release, defended the five-plus weeks it needed to investigate the case. Layton said "complicated investigations take time."
The Humane Society of the United States commended the investigators and the person who saw the video on Snapchat and reported it.
"We are grateful to everyone who made their voices heard in this case," CEO Kitty Block said.
The Game Commission attempted to track down the deer, using dogs. An antler was later located at Hetrick's home.
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