A man cleared by a Lincoln County jury of charges that he abused a pit bull puppy says he plans to sue Lincoln City Police Department, saying the allegations ruined his life and forced him to leave town.
“They held me captive for 10 days while I lost my home, my job, my kids,” Ryan Downey said on Friday, Sept. 7, just hours after a jury found him not guilty on all charges.
“I never took a plea,” he said. “I’m not going to plead to something I didn’t do.”
Lincoln City police arrested Downey on Feb. 16 after concluding he was responsible for breaking the leg of his puppy, an 8-week-old pit bull mix called Missy.
Officer Robert Bomar said eyewitnesses reported seeing Downey throw the puppy into his apartment “with such force that she screamed and ‘yipped' in pain.”
But Downey said Missy’s leg was broken when she and Downey’s infant son fell off the couch together while playing.
“My son and that dog were like best friends,” he said, adding that he took Missy to the vet as soon as he could but had to wait until the following morning to get a ride.
“I can’t stroll up the road with two kids and a hurt puppy,” he said.
After his arrest, Downey spent 10 days in Lincoln County Jail, during which time he says he was evicted from his apartment because he was facing a felony charge and fired from his job as a roofer.
Also, Downey said, the incarceration led the courts to award custody of his two children to their mother, something he had to fight to reverse once he was released.
Downey’s case was reported on the front page of The News Guard and received significant media attention largely due to the level of public interest in the fate of Missy the dog.
After Downey signed over custody of Missy to the animal shelter from his jail cell, she survived a close call during surgery to fix her leg and was adopted out to new owners.
Downey said the publicity forced him to leave town and head for Salem, where he now works as a roofer.
“It ruined me here,” he said, adding: “People were harassing me. I couldn’t even walk through town.”
Downey said that having to get time off from his new job to attend a criminal trial put him in a difficult position but that he was determined not to back down and accept a plea bargain.
During the trial, the state produced witnesses who claimed to have seen Downey throw the puppy into his apartment.
But Downey said the witnesses contradicted each other regarding when and where they found the dog and the manner in which he was alleged to have thrown the animal.
At the end of the 2-day trial, it was clear that the witnesses had not persuaded the jury, which returned verdicts of not guilty on all four animal abuse and animal neglect charges brought against him.
“The justice system worked,” Downey said, “and saw through the lies.”