A Sloan man accused of aggravated animal cruelty in the fatal shooting of a German shepherd last November told Cheektowaga police that the dog was “going bananas” and had attacked him inside his home on Broadway.
“What are you going to do with a 100-pound shepherd that’s going bananas?” Michael Tortorici can be heard telling officers who arrived at his home after receiving a report about the dead dog. “I’m sick about it. He went lunatic tonight. There’s blood all over the building.”
The audio tape recording of Tortorici from Nov. 3 was released Wednesday during a court hearing before Erie County Court Judge Michael D’Amico.
Tortorici, 58, was charged with beating the 8-year-old dog named Max with a wooden stool and a two-by-four before taking him into the basement and shooting him with a shotgun.
Cheektowaga officers have recording devices attached to their bulletproof vests, and the recording of Tortorici came from the vest of Officer Thomas D. LaBelle, one of the first officers at the scene about 1 a.m.
LaBelle testified during the hearing that he arrived at the Tortorici home after pulling over a speeding Mustang on Genesee Street.
The man inside the Mustang told LaBelle he was in a hurry because he had received a call from his mother – Deborah, the wife of Michael Tortorici – about the dog’s being shot. LaBelle ended up following the man to the house on Broadway and calling for back up.
Wednesday’s hearing was to determine whether prosecutors will be able to use some evidence against Tortorici at trial that defense attorney Frank LoTempio III contends was improperly attained. D’Amico will rule on LoTempio’s motion at a later date.
Also testifying Wednesday were Lt. Dana Cadwallader and Det. Joseph Crean of the Cheektowaga police.
Police became suspicious of Tortorici only after he offered inconsistent accounts of what had happened over the course of the evening.
Tortorici told police the dog bit him an hour to an hour and 20 minutes prior to their arrival at the home, and that he shot the dog about 20 minutes after it bit him, according to Cadwallader.
Cadwallader also said he asked Tortorici why he hadn’t called police to handle the dog and that Tortorici responded that he didn’t think police could have helped him.
Crean testified that he came to the house the morning of Nov. 4 to find a wooden stool and two-by-four that police learned earlier may have been used to beat the dog.
Crean saw the two-by-four next to garbage cans in the driveway as he went to knock on the door.
“It had red all over it. It looked like blood,” he said.
When no one answered the door, Crean returned later and talked with Deborah Tortorici, who signed a consent form allowing him to take the stool and two-by-four from the property as evidence, he said.
A necropsy determined that the dog had suffered multiple fractures – including a broken eye socket – from being beaten on the head, according to Cheektowaga police. It also was determined that the gunshot wound wasn’t immediately fatal and the dog suffered considerably before it died.