Destroying the Dog in Order to Save It

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Maura Ciardello says she was left with bruises and a missing tooth. All because an off-duty New Jersey Department of Human Services police officer objected to her leaving her dog locked in her SUV at night when she ran into a store to pick up some groceries. Stephen Sexton was not in uniform, and Ciardello says he did not immediately identify himself as a policeman when he confronted her as she returned to her SUV. She says she feared she was about to be carjacked or raped. When she tried to get in her vehicle, Sexton pulled her out and threw her against the SUV. Woodbridge police arrived to assist Sexton, who had called for help in making an arrest in an animal cruelty case. But while they were transporting Ciardello to jail, the dog escaped from the SUV and ran into traffic, where it was killed. She has charged Sexton with aggravated assault. Sexton has charged Ciardello with obstruction of justice and aggravated assault. Local media report Sexton was fired from the Woodbridge township police a decade ago after a locker room skirmish.