An ex-soldier in full tactical gear armed with an assault rifle launched a one-man raid on an animal shelter after he believed that his missing cat was being held at the facility.
The strange chain of events unfolded Monday in the southeastern suburbs of Melbourne, a court has learned, and offers a strange twist on your Rambo-style tale of a combat veteran running amok in the civilian world.
Tony Wittmann, a 44-year-old father of three and veteran of the Australian Army, was reportedly so enraged when he was informed by workers at the Lost Dogs’ Home in Melbourne that he threatened the shelter worker with a loaded assault rifle before tying her up and holding her captive in the parking lot of the facility.
“Do as I say and listen to me, I won’t shoot you,” he allegedly threatened her, according to reports from the court. “Don’t try anything or I’ll shoot you.”
The former soldier, who was discharged for a failure to render efficient service, is now facing multiple serious charges including kidnapping, false imprisonment, and armed robbery.
Wittmann was clad in a military-style flak vest, balaclava, and tactical helmet when he stormed the Cranbourne West animal shelter on Monday night after learning that his cat was being held overnight at the shelter.
Upon learning that the shelter would be unable to release his feline friend until the next morning, the former soldier decided to escalate matters by invading the premises and brandishing his assault weapon at the worker. According to her, the firearm looked like “something a SWAT team in the movies would use.”
The unhinged gunman then proceeded to grill the woman about “where all the cats were” as he continued brandishing the weapon with his finger on the trigger. He eventually forced the woman to get on her knees before he tied her hands behind her back with zip-ties.
“The accused said, ‘I’m going to close this door. If I see you, I’ll shoot you,’” Detective Senior Constable Jo MacDonald told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
After Wittmann left, the woman eventually managed to free herself before notifying her boss, who promptly alerted local authorities.
The next morning, as detectives combed over the scene for any evidence of the strange incursion, Wittmann returned to retrieve his cat. In addition to failing to get his cat back, he was also detained and jailed, and has been deprived of the right to post bail.
“The community would be at risk personally of him committing further offences if granted bail,” Magistrate Greg McNamara said. “The strength of the prosecution case is a very strong one. Firearms were involved, loaded firearms.”
The crime has also left victims in a state of fear over what transpired, according to officials.
“On this occasion, [Wittman has] acted to get back possession of a cat, which he was only going to be without for possibly 10 hours,” MacDonald informed the court. “The victim and her work colleagues are absolutely traumatized by what’s happened.”
“He’s aware of their workplace. He lives close by. He has shown a complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the general public,” MacDonald continued.
“He has collected a series of weapons. I’ve looked through his mobile telephone which highlights he’s purchased further weapons which are due to be delivered to his home address.”
In Wittmann’s defense, attorney Crystle Gomez Vasquez said that he had suffered a number of physical injuries and was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder due to his military service.
Wittmann is due to return to court in April.
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