Dispute over dead cat erupts into wild scene

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LEWISTON – An incident involving a dead cat late Tuesday night led to the arrest of one man on weapons charges and a police investigation that progressed into Wednesday.

The incident began about 11 p.m. when police were called to Webster Street for a report of a group of people swinging a dead cat by the tail.

The site of the swinging cat enraged a woman at 25 Webster St. She confronted the group with several of her friends, police said.

“She was sitting on her deck smoking a cigarette and she saw them out there swinging the cat,” said police Lt. Tom Avery. “She recognized the cat as her own. It had been struck by a car and killed two days earlier.”

The ugly scene got even uglier. The woman and her friends approached the group in the street as the carcass was still being swung in the air. Words were exchanged. Some witnesses said one of the woman’s friends brought out a baseball bat.

Police said at that point, one man from the cat-swinging group ran to his apartment at 257 Ash St., just around the corner. He returned moments later.

“The woman said she saw the man holding a large gun. It turned out to be an assault rifle,” Avery said. “She claims the man yelled, What do you think now?’ as he was holding that gun.”

The cat was thrown back to the street. Police arrived and the groups dispersed. Officers who spoke with the cat owner learned that the man with the gun had run back to his Ash Street apartment. Several officers went over.

“When the officers went to the apartment, they saw the gun sitting against the wall in an open box,” Avery said.

Police said Ross Trepanier, 23, was the gun owner. He was legally entitled to keep the Romanian-made AK-47, police said, but not to brandish it in public.

Trepanier was charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. He was also charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor after police said they found a juvenile drinking in his apartment.

“Alcohol likely played a major role in this incident,” Avery said. He added that Trepanier was not believed to have swung the dead cat, though he was with the group that did.

Lewiston Public Works and an animal control officer were called to dispose of the carcass. Avery believed the animal was struck by a car earlier this week and killed. He said there was no indication that the group of people involved in the confrontation had killed the cat, whose name was Smokey.

“The cat was deceased already and it had obviously been deceased for a while,” Avery said.

The matter remained under investigation on Wednesday. It was unknown if other weapons were involved in the mix-up. Police were still interviewing witnesses and advising others from getting weapons in disputes.

“This escalated to a dangerous point very quickly,” Avery said. “This is the type of thing we do not want to see happening.”

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