HEWITT - Hewitt Police confirmed they are investigating a graphic video that appears to show a dead dog being lit on fire.
The unsettling footage was originally posted to Snapchat, a social networking application that allows users to share videos for a short period of time before they are deleted. The account behind the video belongs to a recent Midway High School graduate, who played football for the district.
As of early Saturday morning, it was unclear whether or not the teen played a role in the dog's death or if the animal was deceased beforehand.
A Waco bartender posted a secondhand recording of the teen's original graphic footage, which she shared on Facebook Friday night to draw attention to the teen's disturbing post. By Saturday morning, the video already had more than 442,000 views. And, it had been shared more than 6,700 times on Facebook.
"I posted it because, as it goes with all things, when the public is outrages they cannot turn a blind eye to the subject," she wrote in an update on Facebook Saturday morning.
The Hewitt Police Department said it began investigating the animal cruelty video around 6 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, police told Channel Six News they were questioning people in connection with the video.
"I want to ensure the public that we are working on this and gathering all the pertinent details at this time," Chief Jim Devlin wrote in a Facebook post of his own. "When we have further information, I will let everyone know."
A man claiming to be the dog's owner has identified himself on social media. According to one of his comments, the dog recently went missing after breaking free of a collar to chase a rabbit in a local park. A Channel Six News reporter was unable to reach the alleged owner for comment Friday night. And, it was not immediately clear how the dog ended up dead.
"I just want to see him be charged with the criminal act it was," James Plant, who said he owns the dog, said. "I look at it the same way as if he had stumbled upon a toddler's body and done the same thing. There wouldn't be a toss-up of whether there'd be criminal charges."
The McLennan County Sheriff's office is investigating and said it's unclear if any laws were broken because the dog was already dead. The 18-year-old whose Snapchat account is at the center of this has deleted his Facebook page, but he is one of several suspects.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said, "It's sickening. It's sadistic, it's brutal. It's hard to figure out why anyone would do that to begin with, and then even more why would they put that on social media?"
Several studies have found a connection between adolescent animal cruelty and future violent and criminal behavior. The animal rights group PETA has written about how FBI research showed murderers often have histories of torturing animals. You can read more about that here.
Channel Six has a team investigating the incident. Expect updates online and on Channel Six News Weekend Edition.
A couple that knows the owner has set up a GoFundMe for any expenses. You can find a link to that here.
**WARNING: THE BELOW VIDEO IS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC.**
Channel Six is deeply disturbed by the contents of the following video and has made a conscious decision not to embed the footage on our website. If you feel compelled to watch it, here is a link.
(© 2017 KCEN)