VILLA RICA, Ga. - Authorities in Arkansas have arrested three men from Georgia in connection with a disturbing video involving a deer being beaten with a textbook.
On January 28, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources contacted the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) after a viral video showing a young man hitting a living deer in the head several times surfaced on social media. The Villa Rica Police Department was inundated with calls, Facebook messages and emails after the video surfaced and that's when the investigation began.
There were more than 50,000 views of the graphic video within the first few minutes of it being uploaded to Facebook.
According to the AGFC, the video was recorded in Arkansas and showed Joshua Rewis, 20, of Villa Rica striking the deer with a heavy textbook. He told officers that the deer was stuck on U.S. Highway 165 near Stuttgart.
Authorities said Rewis told them he was in the car with Cody Jones, 25, of Carrollton, and Travis Strickland, 25, of Winston and driver 19-year-old Johnna Sigler, of Stuttgart, when the deer was hit.
"After striking the deer, the group pulled over and the three men loaded the live deer into the vehicle," said the AGFC. "Rewis told officers that he planned to tag the deer and clean it. Rewis never contacted the AGFC about the deer so that it could be put down humanely and retained as game. The group also did not contact the Arkansas County Sherriff’s Office to report the accident."
The suspects told authorities as they were driving down the road, the deer became active and that's when Rewis started beating it with the book. The deer began crying out, which is clearly heard in the video.
"The group pulled over and the men dragged the deer to a ditch along the highway and left it," said the AGFC.
Rewis has been charged with wasting wildlife and a misdemeanor offense of cruelty to animals. Jones and Strickland are charged with criminal aiding and abetting. The driver, Sigler, was issued a warning citation for aiding and abetting.
“These officers did an excellent job on this high profile case," said AGFC Chief of Enforcment Col. Todd Callaway. "They turned this investigation around in about a week and now these individuals have to pay the consequences of this horrendous incident."
The original Facebook post included Rewis' name, but several other people with the same name were bombarded and harassed on social media. Police called this a prime example of how not to handle this type of situation.
"I would rather not put it out there for everybody to see, especially when they're putting names and addresses and everything because there is some danger that could be there, where people go to his house, something bad happen," said said Villa Rica Police Chief Michael Mansour.
Villa Rica Police went to Rewis' home when they first learned about the video, but he was hunting in Arkansas when they arrived. The arrests were made less than a week later.