(WSVN) - A family heard gunshots, then found their dogs dead in the backyard. A neighbor admitted to pulling the trigger, but now the dogs’ owner says he is getting off way too easy. 7’s Brian Entin investigates in our special report “No Shot at Justice.”
They were more than beloved pets. Buffy, a German shepherd therapy dog for this Marine Corps veteran, and Thor, his wife’s dog, who comforted her as she battled breast cancer.
Daughter: “I’ve known Buffy since I was 3, and I’m going to miss her.”
The dogs were shot and killed by a neighbor in the family’s Southwest Miami-Dade backyard a year and a half ago.
Yamilla Frederick: “Every time we see a German shepherd or a little black pit bull, we have our flashbacks. It’s something hard to move on from.”
Antonio Frederick: “I try not to look back on it too much, because it does bring me a lot of grief.”
Jose Rocha is the neighbor who pulled the trigger. In a recorded interview, he told police the dogs never showed any signs of aggression.
But he got upset when one of the dogs came through an opening in his fence, so he shot at them.
Detective: “Did you point at the…”
Jose Rocha: “Yeah, I pointed at them, yeah, yeah. I’m not going to lie. Yeah.”
Detective: “How many gunshots did you fire?”
Jose Rocha: “About three, four. I just tried to scare ’em. I didn’t even know I hit ’em.”
Rocha was charged with animal cruelty. He faced 10 years in prison — but won’t spend one day behind bars because of a plea deal.
Brian Entin: “Were you surprised when you heard the plea?”
Yamilla Frederick: “I kind of saw it coming, the way they kept pushing the case back and pushing it back.”
So why the deal? 7News obtained a letter where the prosecutor wrote, “The main issue was the police sergeant did not read Rocha his Miranda warning,” which, of course, includes the right to remain silent.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office declined an on-camera interview.
Shahabudeen Khan, Associate Professor of Law, Nova Southeastern University: “This is theoretically a win for the defendant and a double loss for the family.”
Nova Law School Professor Shahabudeen Khan reviewed the case for us. He says Miami-Dade Police did not need to read Rocha his rights because the interview was done in his home, and he was not yet in custody.
Shahabudeen Khan: “I believe that jail time would have been possible here, had the prosecution pursued this case.”
The victims are facing a lifetime of sorrow. They had to move — to get away from the man who shot their dogs.
The Marine Corps veteran is still dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, and his wife received more devastating news: Her cancer has come back.
Yamilla Frederick: “Now I’m going through it again.”
Brian Enton: “Without your dog?”
Yamilla Frederick: “Exactly. What I got him for was my distraction, my therapy puppy to have him there with me.”
The shooter had no criminal history, and even though he won’t go to jail, he is getting two years of house arrest followed by five years of probation.
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