SACRAMENTO, California––Convicted by jury on October 30, 2014, Joseph Francis Corey was on December 12, 2014 sentenced to life in prison for killing Sacramento County Animal Care & Regulation Department officer Roy Curtis Marcum, in a case that brought international attention to the increasing risks faced by animal control officers in an era of increased possession of dangerous dogs, easy access to firearms, and deteriorating public mental health services.
The Corey trial was covered by media from as far away as The Daily Mail, of London, England.
“Corey, 67, is likely to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for the November 28, 2012 shooting death of Roy Marcum, 43,” predicted Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee at the time of Corey’s conviction. “Besides convicting Corey of murder,” Furillo noted, “the jury sustained two special-circumstance allegations against him: shooting an officer in the performance of his duties and lying in wait.”
Marcum, a 14-year Sacramento County animal control officer, was fatally shot with a high-powered hunting rifle through a closed front door as he approached Corey’s house in Galt, a Sacramento suburb, to take custody of eight Catahoula dogs and two cats. Marcum, who was unarmed, was accompanied by two locksmiths. Both locksmiths suffered superficial injuries.
Dogs, guns & garbage
Corey had been evicted the day before, after not making a house payment in three years and filling the house with refuse. Corey was not known to be back in the house, but was believed to have left the Catahoulas, who are pit bull variants, in the second floor house and ground level garage.
A 16-hour standoff followed the shooting, during which SWAT team members were able to slip into the garage and hide until Corey descended a stairway into the garage to check on one of the dogs circa 5 a.m. on November 29, 2012.
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Arturo Gonzalez testified at Corey’s trial that he had temporarily removed a loaded double-barreled shotgun from the house during the eviction.
But Elk Grove Police Department’s hostage negotiation team member Derrick Metzger learned during the 16-hour siege, he told the jury, that Corey had not only the rifle and shotgun, but also several handguns and a stockpile of ammunition.
Crime scene investigator Mike Sullivan testified that Charlotte Marcum-Rush, Marcum’s mother, visited Corey in the Sacramento County Jail’s medical ward on December 14, 2012, five days after her son was killed, to ask him why he shot Marcum. Sullivan testified that Corey said repeatedly that he had hoped to kill a police officer.
Defense attorney Jennifer Mouzis argued that Corey was so incapacitated by the mental disorder causing his hoarding behavior that he was incapable of committing premeditated murder. Mouzis called as a defense witness psychologist Robin Zasio, star of the A&E reality TV program Hoarders.
California Governor Jerry Brown on September 22, 2014 signed into law a bill, AB 1511, authored by state assembly member Beth Gaines of Roseville, that allows animal control officers to obtain criminal histories of suspects before approaching either the suspects or their homes.
“California’s ACOs are no longer mere ‘dog catchers’ chasing strays,” explained deputy director of San Diego Animal Services Harold Holmes to Opposing Views columnist Phyllis Daugherty. Holmes, an attorney and former police officer, helped Gaines to draft AB 1511 and push it to passage.
“Animal control officers enforce state and local laws pertaining to animals, protecting both public safety and animal welfare. Marcum was an experienced officer,” Holmes reminded. “Had he been able to check the background of the former resident [of the house he approached], he might have been forewarned that the owner was known to have firearms, and he could have requested a police officer for backup and assistance.
“Most ACOs don’t carry firearms, stun guns, or other personal protection devices,” Holmes added. “As law enforcement officers, ACOs urgently need this criminal background information to safely and properly serve the public.”
Endorsed by the Humane Society of the U.S. and the National Animal Control Association, AB 1511 is expected to become the model for similar legislation to be introduced in every state.
Earlier, NACA distributed $100,000 granted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to the Officer Roy Marcum Ballistic Vest Grant Program, to help provide animal control departments with bullet-proof vests for officers to wear while performing hazardous assignments. The funds helped to buy 250 vests for 59 animal control agencies in 29 states.
Altogether, 136 agencies had requested funding to buy 704 vests, NACA said.
Awareness that animal control officers may be shot at on the job has gradually increased since Mark Kumpf, now the longtime animal control chief in Dayton, Ohio, but then an ACO in Virginia, was fired upon in 1992 while investigating a suburban deer poaching complaint. Honored by the American Humane Association in September 1992, Kumpf appealed unsuccessfully for legislation recognizing animal control officers as peace officers deserving of the same protection as police officers and firefighters.
Later, as a NACA board member and board member of the Ohio Dog Wardens Association, Kumpf helped to create the NACA Memorial Wall & Gardens at the NACA headquarters in Olathe, Kansas, to honor animal control officers who have died in the line of duty.
Among the twenty honorees when the NACA wall was unveiled on October 1, 2011 were at least two killed under circumstances comparable to the Marcum murder.
Police officer Bill Grijalva, 41, was fatally shotgunned by pit bull owner Luke Grinage, 21, on December 15, 1993 in Oakland, California. Grinage and his father Rafael were also killed in the ensuing shootout with other officers. It was uncertain whether Rafael Grinage, who was confined to a wheelchair, was killed by his son or by police. Grijalva was attempting to collect Luke Grinage’s pit bull for a 10-day quarantine. The pit bull had bitten at least three people, and lacked current rabies vaccination. Two animal control officers had been rousted from the property the day before. Grijalva was married, with two children, and was close to retirement after 19 years on the beat.
Bobby Dean Evans, 47, animal control officer in Bellmead, Texas, since 2000, was on June 18, 2007 fatally shot by an unknown assailant at the city animal shelter. The only witnesses were two impounded dogs and another he had just picked up. The killer remains at large.
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