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North Stonington — The three men accused of shooting and seriously wounding Asa Palmer's cow and injuring another were people the young farmer knew.
The four were more than just casually acquainted in this town of about 5,000 people. Max Urso is a senior classmate of Palmer's at Wheeler High School. Todd Caswell's father worked for many years at the Palmer family's dairy farm. Asa Palmer attended church with Henry Williamson the week before the shooting.
"That's why it kinda hurts," Palmer said Tuesday after Williamson and Urso were arrested by state police. "My father did that kid (Caswell) favors when he was growing up, you know what I mean? Pretty scummy when you do that to someone you know."
The Jan. 26 shooting left Angel, a nearly year-old Ayrshire heifer, grievously wounded. Palmer's calf was eventually euthanized. A second calf, a Holstein, still has a bullet lodged in its spine but is expected to survive.
Urso, 18, of 88 Stillman Road, North Stonington, was charged Tuesday with first-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree criminal mischief, unlawful discharge of firearms, hunting/discharging a firearm from a public highway, having a loaded gun in a motor vehicle, cruelty to animals and conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals.
Williamson, 20, of 1 Palmer St., Pawcatuck, was charged with second-degree false statement and third-degree hindering prosecution.
Caswell, 23, of North Stonington, has yet to be apprehended.
"I didn't have any problems with them and neither did my dad," Palmer said. "I'm glad (the police) are doing something about it. I was worried it might become a stale case. (The arrests) makes me happy."
Palmer said he works 25 to 30 hours a week during the school year at the family farm. During the summer, that number reaches 50 or 60 hours, he said. The arrests Tuesday were welcome news after a "rough" weekend, he said.
"Farming's hard enough, but snow makes it harder," Palmer said.
State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, said the shooting disgusted and disheartened her. Several years ago, Urban said she introduced a bill giving judges the right to order counseling for those convicted of animal cruelty offenses. These types of incidents are "red flags," she said.
"If someone is willing to shoot off a cow's jaw and leave it to suffer, then we need to pay attention to that because there's ample research out there saying that the violence can escalate," Urban said.
Days after the shooting, Urban started "The Angel Fund" at Chelsea Groton Bank to raise money for Palmer. More than $3,500 has been raised thus far, she said.
"Let's see how much we can give this young man to get for his (fund) so he can go on with farming," Urban said. "We want to let him know his community, the whole region, cares."
Palmer said he appreciated Urban's efforts and thanked all those who donated.
"It's unbelievable that that many people sent money," he said. "I guess they want there still to be farms around. It's nice to have something good come out of a bad thing."
Urso and Williamson were each held in lieu of $25,000 bonds and are scheduled to be arraigned today in New London Superior Court.
"I really want people to take this seriously and look at it as an early-warning sign and make sure these young men know this was a very bad thing to do, but also that there's counseling available, help available, if they need it," Urban said.
In an unrelated case, Caswell is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 20 after he allegedly hit and seriously injured a motorcyclist last summer in Groton.
In that incident, Caswell was driving a white Ford SUV when he pulled out of the Flagship Inn & Suites on Gold Star Highway and hit the motorcyclist, who was traveling west. The motorcyclist was taken by Life Star helicopter from Lawrence + Memorial Hospital to Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Caswell was charged with failure to grant right-of-way and driving with a suspended license stemming from that July 2 incident.
In Rhode Island, Caswell has convictions for simple assault, felony conspiracy and driving with a suspended license. He has pending charges for felony conspiracy and larceny of less than $1,500.
Williamson and Urso have no known prior convictions or arrests.
Anyone with information about Caswell's whereabouts is asked to contact state police in Montville at (860) 848-6500.