Winston is back!
A Prospect Heights couple’s hunt for its beloved dog has ended with joy — and serious allegations against a cop who apparently tried to pawn the pooch off on strangers so he wouldn’t have to deal with the paperwork.
Michael Reinhardt and Kumiko Masaoka reunited with their lovable white West Highland Terrier on Sunday after a Brownsville woman — who spotted a flier about the dog — called to tell them that she’d had the pup for over a month.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Reinhardt, comparing the feeling to finding a lost child. “It’s a good day.”
Up until Sunday, Reinhardt — a doctor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center — and Masaoka believed that their 1-year-old best friend had been stolen because a police officer told him three con-women had convinced him they owned the pup.
But Crystal French, the 24-year-old who returned Winston, told Reinhardt that the cop had in fact asked her to take Winston, explaining he didn’t have time to do the paperwork.
Several other witnesses — whom Reinhardt encountered while hanging fliers near Franklin Avenue, where Winston went missing — made similar claims, noting that the officer had asked several people to “adopt” the pooch.
“He asked them if they wanted a free dog,” Reinhardt said, adding he believes French’s story and considers her credible. “It’s not right.”
Reinhardt’s nightmare began in early August, after he and Masaoka left the Ra Ra Riot concert in Prospect Park with the dog at around 9 pm.
They headed to the park’s Long Meadow, but Winston got spooked by a flashing dog collar light and ran away during off-leash hours. He was wearing a dog collar, but not his dog tag.
A would-be rescuer found the outgoing pup soon after but, instead of taking him to a shelter, she handed him over to the officer. But that’s where the stories diverge.
The police offer this account: Officer Yen, whose first name has not been provided, only relinquished the dog after three women in a black sedan lied to him, saying that they were Winston’s rightful owners.
But French and other witnesses — who have described the officer’s physical appearance — say that Yen approached the car and asked the women they would take the dog.
French couldn’t be reached by press time — but her cousin, Destiny, said, “She was trying to do a good thing. That cop told her [Winston] was homeless.”
It wouldn’t be the first time officers within the Classon Avenue stationhouse have been accused of paperwork shenanigans. In February, Internal Affairs launched a still-open probe that accused higher-ups at the busy precinct — which includes Prospect Heights and Crown Heights — of manipulating crime statistics.
Yen’s behavior — no matter which story you believe — is not in line with “proper procedure,” according to police sources, although an NYPD spokeswoman did not explain the proper protocol by press time.
Yen also did not returned several calls from The Brooklyn Paper. His superior noted he has not been reprimanded, noting, “This is news to me.”
But dog lovers — even those who understand the perils of a busy cop in a crime-plagued neighborhood — still find the puppy hand-off abhorrent, saying it’s almost on par with ignoring a lost kid.
“If [Yen] was too lazy to do his paperwork, then maybe he should be assigned to be a community liaison team … to learn [how to] see the community through other people’s eyes,” said Bob Ipcar of FIDO, Prospect Park’s dog advocacy group.
Reinhardt echoed that idea, saying that the NYPD should be held accountable for the heartache and confusion he’s felt for the past five weeks.
“They can’t do this to people,” he said. “It’s just wrong.”