By John Luciew | [email protected]
BROOKVILLE, Pa. – Upon seeing a now-viral video of two teens kicking and torturing a wounded deer, the police chief here was said to be sick — but not for the same reasons as other viewers of the vile video.
According to Brookville solicitor James D. Dennison, Chief Vince Markle immediately recognized his stepson as one of the two teens laughing and kicking the animal in the video posted to social media.
In an interview with PennLive, Dennison said the chief called him early Sunday morning and informed him that his stepson, Alex Smith, 18, was one of the the Brookville High School teens in the video.
“Vince is as upset, if not more upset, than anyone else,” Dennison said. “This is a relation to his family. He said it reflects on him, and he was real concerned about how it reflects on Brookville. He was shocked that anybody in this world would do that, especially his stepson. He was just sick, absolutely sick.”
Dennison said the chief’s relationship with his stepson has been strained for some time.
“Vince married Alex’s mother. He really didn’t meet Alex until he was 14 years old, and Alex has not lived in their house for the last 2 1/2 years. There are issues. He has issues with his stepson,” he said.
Dennison said Chief Markle immediately instructed his officers to make a copy of the video to preserve as evidence and to inform the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“I don’t think there is any sympathy for what these kids did,” Dennison said. “The chief has done the right thing, and he will do the right thing.”
The police department is not involved in the active and ongoing criminal investigation of the case, which is being handled by the game commission and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office, Dennison said.
Dennison vowed neither the chief nor anyone on the borough staff would seek preferential treatment in the case, despite the family relationship.
“There will be no favoritism,” Dennison said. “I can assure everybody that the Borough of Brookville will do the right thing here and will not expect any favors for these kids or ask for any favors for these kids and will let the DA and the Pennsylvania Game Commission handle it and not interfere in any way.”
The video has reverberated nationally, as shown by an online petition calling for both teens to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The petition had gathered more than 530,000 signatures.
The 30-second video, which one of the two teens posted on social media last Saturday, ignited a fierce backlash online. The fallout, which includes death threats and threats of fire-bombing homes, began that Saturday night and came to the chief’s attention when his own family members were requesting police protection, Dennison said.
Similar threats also were focused on a restaurant owned by the parents of the other teen in the video, whom Dennison identified as Cody Hetrick, 16.
His family’s restaurant, Devil’s BBQ, is in the borough and was subject to added police surveillance as it also received threats after both teens were identified on social media.
“When I talked to the chief, he let me know Devil’s BBQ was having problems and the house where Alex Smith was staying was having problems,” Dennison said. “He was informing me as solicitor the issues that were occurring in the borough.”
Dennison said Devil’s BBQ closed Sunday due to the threats, but reopened Tuesday. In addition to posting threatening and often profane comments on the restaurant’s Facebook page, many angered by the video also posted Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews expressing their disgust until both sites suspended publishing of new reviews.
A PennLive reporter and photographer visited the restaurant over the lunch hour Thursday and found the place empty, although a restaurant/bar right next door was packed for lunch.
The owners of Devil’s BBQ are Cody’s parents, Rob and MeriBeth Hetrick. They would not comment when PennLive journalists visited and asked for comments. Subsequent phone calls to the restaurant seeking a response to Dennison’s comments were not answered.
Dennison said Pennsylvania state police are actively investigating at least some of the threats made in reaction to the video.