COPPEROPOLIS, Calif. — A man, who admitted to shooting and killing a beloved pet cat in Copperopolis and then showing the dying cat on social media, is facing a felony count of animal cruelty.
19-year-old Colton Fontes, of Copperopolis, was arrested last Friday by Calaveras County Sheriff's deputies.
The sheriff's office says he initially denied involvement. However, when deputies noticed a portion of Fontes's home was "identical in appearance to an area shown on the video," he admitted to killing the cat.
"Utter heartbreak, honestly. It was like the hardest moment in my entire life to be honest," said Braeden Hall, the cat's owner.
Hall and his girlfriend befriended the stray cat in January when the cat showed up at their home meowing.
"He would literally just meow at me and my girlfriend, so, the name stuck. We called him 'Mr. Meow.'"
Described as his best friend, Hall said his cat had been missing for over a week. He created a flyer for social media.
But then last week, a friend showed him a video circulating on social media that the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office says "depicted a cat being inhumanely killed."
"I knew it was him right away because he has some really distinct colorings on his face. And, then I just didn't want to believe it, you know," Hall said.
A rifle believed to have been used in the crime was confiscated by law enforcement officers.
This was not the first run-in with the law for Colton Fontes.
In December 2020, he was arrested on two misdemeanor charges, including one for alleged battery. He was found not guilty of battery and plead no contest to disturbing the peace.
He spent a day in jail and was put on unsupervised probation until the end of next January.
"Our heart goes out to Mr. Meow's guardians," said Kenneth Montville, spokesperson for PETA.
Montville says videos depicting animal cruelty are "dangerous by normalizing" the abuse "particularly for impressionable viewers."
"Criminals who prey on animals, very often move on to victimize their humans," Montville said.
As Hall grieves his loss, he has created a "Justice for Mr. Meow" online campaign, in the hopes the crime will go punished to the fullest extent of the law.
"I want the community to know. I want them to be aware of who is living here," Hall said.
Fontes went to jail where he posted the $65,000 bail.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of three years in jail and a $20,000 fine.