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Jury Hears From Officer Who Tried To Save Dog That Was Set On Fire

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There was powerful testimony in the trial for two brothers accused of setting a pit bull on fire in Baltimore City.

On Friday, the jury heard from the police officer who tried to save the dog’s life.

Weijia Jiang reports.

Jurors heard from the Baltimore police officer who put the flames out on the puppy with her sweater, but the star witness in this case seems to be a city police camera.

When a young pit bull nicknamed Phoenix was doused with gasoline and torched, it was Baltimore police detective Syreeta Teel who put out the flames.

“There were people standing around but nobody was doing anything, so I got out of the car and took my sweater, hitting him, trying to put the fire out,” Teel said.

On Friday, Teel took the stand in the re-trial against 20-year-old twin brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of setting Phoenix on fire in May 2009.

She described the gruesome scene and said the little burning puppy was a puff of smoke.  She said the dog smelled like “burning meat.”  The dog later had to be euthanized.

Teel, the state’s witness, may help the defense.

Attorneys tried to shatter her credibility as an investigator, pointing to Teel’s failure to secure the crime scene, take pictures or record names.

But prosecutors are relying most on police surveillance video from the scene, claiming the Johnsons are seen running away in the tape.

Defense lawyers say it’s too grainy and of poor quality to use as evidence, let alone to identify their clients.

They told jurors “not a single person will say they saw that face, that face on video.”  They also claim their clients are scapegoats. They say “the police had to find someone to blame, needed to quiet the public outcry.  But you cannot convict because it’s convenient.”

Prosecutors will continue to call witnesses next week. The trial is expected to last several more days.

The Johnsons face felony animal cruelty charges.  The maximum penalty is three years in prison.

The brothers have been tried once before in this case, but it ended with a mistrial.  A single hold-out could not be convinced to convict.

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