Northern Virginia

Customs and Border Protection Officer Accused of Killing His Dog in Va. Park

A Customs and Border Protection officer has been arrested after police say he shot his dog in the head at a Fairfax County, Virginia, park and left its body there.

Mark Cochrane, 61, is charged with felony cruelty to animals, unlawful discharge of a weapon and littering, Fairfax County police say. 

The shooting occurred on July 15, 2017, at the Archery Club Range at Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station. A witness called Animal Control after they discovered a German-shepherd mix dog dead, suffering from a massive head wound.

The witness reported hearing a pop and found the dead dog about 30 minutes later.

Fairfax County Animal Services began an exhaustive investigation that led to Cochrane's arrest this week. Capt. Paul Norton, the animal services commander, told News4 the case was troubling.

"That this should happen to any animal is concerning, and that's why we took the investigation so seriously," he said. 

Regular visitors to the park said they were troubled to hear about the dog's death. 

"If it would have missed, it could have been a human," visitor Mark Smith said. 

Norton said during the necropsy on the dog, later identified as Amatah, a microchip was found. The microchip indicated that Amatah had been found running loose several times and had been brought to the animal shelter, where Cochrane retrieved him.

When investigators contacted the dog's vet, they learned Cochrane called the clinic in August 2017 to report that his pet had died at home, a search warrant affidavit revealed.

Investigators discovered Cochrane worked for the Department of Homeland Security as a Customs and Border Protection agent.

A search warrant was used to seize his duty weapon, but ballistics tests on that were inconclusive.

Earlier this month, Cochrane came to police headquarters for a voluntary interview, court records say.

"There he admitted to shooting the canine at Northern Virginia Archery Range," an investigator wrote.

Cochrane disclosed that he had two Heckler & Koch pistols: his duty weapon and an old duty weapon he bought when his agency got him the new service gun.

He told investigators he didn't remember which gun he used to kill the dog.

He turned over his other weapon for testing last week and was charged Wednesday.

News4 reached Cochrane by phone on Friday and he said he could not speak at the time. 

Customs and Border Protection said they do not tolerate any actions by their employees that would tarnish the agency's reputation. They say CPB is fully cooperating with Fairfax County police. 

It was not immediately clear if Cocharane still worked for the agency.

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