Investigation at Brown County home leads to multiple arrests after deputy witnesses animal abuse

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L to R: Amber Breedlove, Austin Gess, Nicolas Hardin, Shawn O'Neill.

BROWN COUNTY, Ind.– An investigation at a Brown County residence resulted in charges for drugs, guns and animal abuse.

On April 25, a Brown County deputy responded to a call for assistance from an off-duty deputy at a coffee shop on State Road 46. The off-duty deputy said there had been a dog in the parking lot and he called the number on the tag to let the owner know.

He spoke with Amber Breedlove, 18, who said she was sending a friend, Austin Gess, 18, to pick the dog up. When Gess arrived, the deputy offered a leash to him to use. Gess unsnapped the leash and led it away by its collar. The deputy noted Gess picked the dog up and put it across his shoulder with the dog lying upside down on its spine. The deputy again offered the leash to him.

At that time, the deputy said Gess threw the dog off his shoulders and slammed it into the ground “with enough force that the dog yelped.”

Deputies went to the residence on Deer Trails where Gess and the dog were staying, not far from the coffee shop, and obtained a search warrant.

Four people were at the home: homeowner Nicholas Hardin, 33, Gess, Breedlove and Shawn O’Neill, 33. Gess and Breedlove are renters at the property, police said.

Oneill had two knives and a magazine to a handgun on him. He told authorities the gun was in a car parked in the driveway, but it was his girlfriends and he was unable to possess it because he is a convicted felon.

The car belonged to Hardin, who deputies said seemed surprised to learn a gun was inside. He let police search the vehicle and the firearm was located.

Hardin said shortly before the deputies arrived, an argument over the dog took place.

During the search of the home and suspects, a marijuana pipe was found in Gess’ pocket, court documents show. In one of the rooms, officers found marijuana and paraphernalia. Breedlove said she stayed in this room. More marijuana and paraphernalia was found in Gess’ room.

In a third room, deputies found a large number of smoking devices and two bags of marijuana, each about a fourth of a pound. Court documents show Hardin admitted to dealing marijuana.

Deputies noted there was a severe smell of urine and feces. In addition to the dog initially involved in the investigation, two other dogs and a cat were found. The Indiana Department of Child Services was called and will conduct their own investigation.

All four suspects were arrested.

Breedlove faces charges of possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. Gess faces charges of cruelty to an animal and possession of paraphernalia. Harding’s charges include maintaining a common nuisance, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. O’Neill faces a charge of possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

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