18-year-old Racine man fatally beat dog, police say

Zen Price

RACINE -- An 18-year-old Racine man has been charged with fatally beating a dog. Investigators say the suspect, Zen Price IV, changed his story twice.

According to a criminal complaint, Racine police officers were sent to investigate the death of a pit bull near Erie and Yout Streets in Racine. The owner found the dog dead around 6 a.m. on Jan. 16 -- the complaint states the dog was acting normally as late as 10 p.m. the night before.

The owner described the dog as very athletic, active and eager and that the dog was "particularly frisky" the night before being found dead. In a December incident, the owner told police that Price gave the dog a "whooping" as discipline.

The complaint states that Price initially had no explanation for the dog's injuries. He told authorities that he had injured his hand after punching a wall, distraught over the dog's death. He also told authorities that he loved the dog like his own and would not hurt it.

When informed that he was being charged, the complaint states that Price changed his story. He then told investigators that, while walking the dog, it was attacked by raccoons; he said he may have kicked the dog in the process of stopping the attack.

Later, Price changed his story again. He told investigators that the dog encountered a stray while on a walk. The two dogs began fighting, and he tried punching the dogs apart.

A veterinarian examined the dog's injuries and described them as "constituting tremendous trauma, obtained in a short period of time with evidence of fresh bruising." The veterinarian also observed evidence of blunt force trauma to the dog's ribs and believed there was evidence of fluid in the abdomen. The examination did not reveal any signs of fighting or bite wounds from another dog. The complaint states that the veterinarian could not determine the exact cause of injury -- not ruling out the possibility of being hit by a car.

Investigators observed bruising to the dog's left and right sides near the stomach, bruising and red marks to the dog's throat and bruising near the dog's hind leg. The complaint also states that investigators observed swelling to Price's wrist, the back his hand and between his knuckles  -- an injury, authorities say, is commonly known as "boxer's fracture".

Price is due back in court Jan. 22 for his preliminary hearing.