The general manager and other workers at a Naugatuck-based canine training business owned by a New Canaan Police officer shot and killed least 10 dogs there, officials say.
Placed on leave last week after police in his hometown of Stratford brought an initial set of charges that included felony charges of illegal use and possession of explosives, Officer David Rivera, 34, on Monday turned himself in to Naugatuck Police on a warrant for conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals, first-degree reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit euthanization of a canine.
Alerted last week by state and other authorities about possible animal cruelty at Black Rock Canine Training—a facility for prospective military and police dogs, as well as for privately owned canines by individuals seeking such training— Naugatuck detectives and Animal Control officers found “that numerous canines of all ages and breeds, including German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Labrador Retrievers, have been abused and injured during their time at Black Rock Canines,” according to a press release issued by Naugatuck PD.
“More specifically, that at least 10 canines have been killed by employees with a firearm,” the press release said. “The canines that were shot and killed were then buried on the property by the owner/operators of the business.”
Its general manager, 33-year-old Daniel Luna of Waterbury, “had abused numerous puppies and dogs during his time of employment at Black Rock Canines facility,” the press release said.
Lunda’s abuse included “the shooting of dogs which were deemed no longer viable for the business,” it said. “Witnesses also stated that Daniel Luna’s lack of adequate care led to the death of puppies who had been left exposed to harsh weather elements.”
Luna turned himself in Monday on four counts each of cruelty to animals, conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals, unlawful euthanization of a canine and conspiracy to commit unlawful euthanization of a canine, as well as first-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree identity theft.
The mistreatment of dogs “is not the only illegal activity that was discovered to have taken place at the Black Rock Canine’s facility,” the press release said.
“Witnesses reported that military-grade high explosives were being unlawfully stored on the property,” it continued. “The owner, David Rivera had directed employees on numerous occasions to remove high-grade explosives from the storage location at Black Rock Canine and transport them to the Naugatuck Event Center for canine training purposes inside the building. At the same time, the Event Center would usually contain numerous other people who were engaging at the other businesses such as a cycling center and retail clothing store. These military-grade high explosives were allegedly stored in Tupperware containers and handled by inexperienced employees who lacked the training or the necessary permits to do so.”
Known to many New Canaanites as the department’s most recent K-9 officer, Rivera has been out on injured leave and recently filed a grievance seeking to reimbursed for the period of Dec. 3 to at least Feb. 6. The Police Commission in February voted unanimously to deny the request.
Rivera “presently prohibited from serving as an active-duty New Canaan police officer,” Krolikowski said in a statement issued following the officer’s arrest.
“Mr. Rivera will remain on leave pending adjudication of any criminal case and the completion of an internal investigation,” the chief said in the statement.
According to Connecticut Judicial Branch records, he was charged April 28 by Stratford Police with illegal possession of explosives, illegal use of explosives without a permit and three counts of illegal transfer or purchase of a pistol/revolver—all felony offenses—as well as illegal possession of an assault weapon and failure to meet responsibilities regarding the storage of firearms, specifically that “a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the minor.”
Rivera has not pleaded to the original charges. He was released on $250,000 bond and scheduled to appear May 10 in state Superior Court, the records show. Following the new animal-related charges, he was released on $150,000 bond and scheduled to appear May 18, according to the press release.
On Tuesday morning, Naugatuck Police detectives obtained a subsequent search-and-seizure warrant allowing both state and local Animal Control Officers to remove the remaining 31 dogs and place them at a shelter, the press release said.
“These dogs will remain at the shelter and receive the proper care they need pending the disposition of this case,” it said.
Luna was held on $225,000 bond and scheduled to appear Wednesday at state Superior Court in Waterbury.
Rivera’s father, 57-year-old David Rivera, Sr., also was arrested. On April 29, Naugatuck Police were dispatched to Black Rock Canines on a report of an employee being threatened. Through an investigation, officers determined that Rivera Sr. had “threatened one current and one former employee with a knife,” the press release said. He was charged with second-degree threatening and two counts of breach of peace. Rivera Sr. was released on $25,000 bond and schedule to appear May 11 in state Superior Court in Waterbury.
The Naugatuck Police investigation was launched last week after the agency was contacted by the State of Connecticut Department of Agriculture-State Animal Control Unit, Connecticut State Police and Stratford Police Department regarding a joint investigation involving allegations of the storage of illegal explosives, firearms, and possible animal cruelty animal allegations at Black Rock Canine, the press release said.
[This article has been updated with information on additional charges related to animal cruelty.]