MARION COUNTY, Fla. - The Ocala teacher accused of drowning two raccoons and an opossum while students were present in an agriculture class will not face criminal charges, according to a memo released by the state attorney's office on Friday.
Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King wrote in the memo that the Forest High School agricultural science teacher did not "torment" the animals and was not unnecessarily cruel as he held the trapped raccoons in trash cans filled to the brim with water on May 15.
"During the post-Miranda interview, (the teacher) explained that in one of his classes, his students raise chickens as a project that remain in a pen on campus. He indicated that the students cared a great deal for the chickens, with many of them giving the birds names. Over the course of a few weeks, (the teacher) indicated that approximately 8 chickens had been killed, with their dead carcasses left behind by the culprit. Over time, (the teacher) determined that it was likely raccoons that were destroying the students’ farm animals. He determined it was best to trap these animals to stop the incessant and unnecessary killing of the students’ birds," King wrote.
Officials said that once the teacher trapped the raccoons, he weighed other options to kill them but shooting them would not be permitted because guns are prohibited on campus and bludgeoning them would be "too brutal and messy."
The teacher "explained that the most humane way to dispose of these nuisance animals was to drown them. He was clear that he never intended to be cruel, or vicious, nor did he intend to torment or torture the animals," King wrote.
Students were given the option to stay in the classroom with a paraprofessional so as to not witness the drowning.
Video provided to News 6 shows several students helping the teacher hold the traps steady and filling the large trash bins with water.
The video below was recorded as the raccoons were being drowned. While the video is blurred, viewer discretion is advised.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer involved in the criminal investigation told prosecutors that he didn't believe the teacher intended to be cruel or inhumane, but that drowning is not a recommended means of euthanasia.
King wrote that there's no documentation classifying drowning as inhumane under certain circumstances. The state attorney wrote that since killing nuisance animals is legal, prosecutors would have to prove that the teacher unnecessarily tortured the creatures, but proof for that does not exist.
"The definition of torment requires proof that the pain or suffering be unjustifiable, of which there is essentially no proof, particularly as to the defendant’s state of mind. Furthermore, (the teacher) indicated that he saw no reasonable remedy, as he weighed his available options. This reality casts further doubt on the ability of the State to prove the allegations beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt," King wrote.
The teacher retired days after the video of him and his students went viral. Animal advocates, including PETA, have called for an end to the school's agriculture program. The school's superintendent also chimed in, saying that the teacher should be fired.
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