By Yoshiaki Nohara and Justin Arnold Herald Writers
The video is upsetting: A man who appears to be a U.S. Marine in Iraq holds a puppy up to the camera, throws the yelping animal into a gully and shrugs.
Now a Monroe man is the target of rage and death threats after the video appeared on YouTube and started drawing worldwide attention Monday. Comments left at YouTube claim he is the Marine in the video.
As more people watched the video throughout the day, some posted personal information about the Monroe man and encouraged others to commit acts of cyber-vigilantism against him.
The family’s phone numbers had been disconnected as of Monday, and Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies have been told of the existing threats.
While the sheriff’s office hasn’t yet received any reports of harassment, “if the serviceman has family in our area being harassed, that is not something we would tolerate at all,” spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.
The Herald is not publishing the man’s name because of the many questions surrounding the video.
No one can say yet whether the 17-second video is a hoax or really shows a live puppy being killed. It’s unclear where the video was created and who actually shot the video or posted it on the Internet.
Meanwhile, the video is being investigated by the U.S. Marine Corps, Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. A Marine Corps spokeswoman in the Pentagon said they learned of the video on Monday morning.
In a statement, the Marines said the video is “shocking and deplorable and is contrary to the high standards we expect of every Marine.”
“We do not tolerate this type of behavior and will take appropriate action,” according to the statement.
The video is blurry and it’s difficult to tell whether the puppy is a toy or real, alive or dead. It dangles motionless as the man who appears to be a Marine holds it by the scruff of the neck and shows it to the camera. The animal makes no sound.
“Cute little puppy, huh?” the man says, smiling.
“Aww so cute, so cute, little puppy,” someone else says from off camera.
“Uh, uh, uh, I tripped,” the man says.
He then turns and throws something into the gully. The object tumbles through the air end over end. Yelping sounds are heard, but it’s unclear where the sounds were coming from.
From off screen, someone says “That’s mean. That’s mean…” and then uses the Monroe man’s last name.
A profile for a man with that name on Bebo.com, a social networking site, said he was a Marine serving in Iraq, but was expecting to be transferred to Hawaii. The site was taken down Monday afternoon.
A man with the same name was a junior at Monroe High School in 2003 and graduated from the Monroe School District’s Leaders In Learning alternative high school program in June of 2004, according to district records.
A woman at the home listed for the Marine declined to talk.
“Could you just leave? We already know why you’re here,” the woman said. “Just go. There’s nothing to say.”
The video has stirred strong emotions, and people have flooded cyberspace with comments about the Marine. It’s not unusual that people chastise or denigrate others on the Internet, said Mike Andrew, vice president of training and forensic analyst for the CyberSecurity Institute in Monroe. The institute trains state and federal law enforcement and military agencies as well as corporations on security over the Internet.
“When cyber-vigilantism comes along, people slide under the radar and they release things, thinking that they are untraceable,” Andrew said.
Law enforcement officials can track down and subpoena those who commit cyber-vigilantism or cyber-bullying, Andrew said.
The video has also raised questions among those who have watched it.
At The Herald’s request, veterinarians at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine agreed to review the video.
They cannot determine whether the puppy was real. One did note that it appeared to leave the frame of the video for a second and the people in the video could have switched it with a fake dog.
“If this is something legitimate, it’s one of the most egregious acts of animal cruelty I have ever seen, if not the most,” said Dr. Matt Mickas, chief of Community Practice Services at WSU’s veterinary college.
He said it did not appear fake to him, because of the way the animal went slack by being held from the neck.
“To me, the sound on the YouTube clip sounded like a puppy in distress — the same sound we hear when the puppies come into the hospital,” Mickas said.
In their statement, the Marines acknowledged that the video could tarnish the image of America’s servicemen and women: “There have been numerous stories of Marines adopting pets and bringing them home from Iraq or helping to arrange life-saving medical care for Iraqi children.
“Those are the stories that exemplify what we stand for and how most Marines behave.”
Herald writers Eric Stevick and Jim Haley contributed to this report.
Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or email@example.com