The brutal beating of a kitten at a Missoula residence Sunday night generated widespread and explosive public comment over the past week, with online comment boards openly displaying a lynch-mob mentality directed at the kitten's alleged abuser. Police attempted to arrest Gary Lee Bassett on charges of felony aggravated animal abuse Thursday afternoon, only to have Bassett commit suicide before he could be apprehended. The tragic conclusion to the incident had little to no impact on the tenor of the outcry.
"The comments that have been made to me since it happened were, ‘Justice has been served,’ ‘Glad he did it,’ ‘We don’t have to pay the cost of a trial,’ ‘If he hadn’t done it, somebody else probably would have,'" Karyn Moltzen, founder and president of AniMeals, told the Independent this afternoon. "You can’t believe some of the things people have said about it.”
Moltzen joined the public commentary earlier this week, telling the Missoulian, "I say hang him. You can quote me on that. Hurt him. Sorry." She was hardly alone in her sentiments. A single story in the Missoulian Feb. 4—the same day as Bassett's death—garnered 89 online comments. Most called for "an eye for an eye" or referred to the kitten's abuser as "a scum and a coward." One blog, the Wilderness Sportsman, went so far as to deem the man "Tool of the Week."
“I wanted to hurt the guy," Moltzen said today. "I wanted to hit him. I wanted him to feel pain like that kitten felt pain, and I think everybody wanted him to hurt like that. So if somebody had gone and beaten the living daylights out of him, it wouldn’t have fazed me a bit.”
Moltzen said that opinion hasn't changed in light of Bassett's death. She believes those who commented on the incident and those who gathered at the police blockade yesterday afternoon to witness the arrest were "very, very angry," but doesn't think anyone "wanted him dead. That's pretty severe." Moltzen regrets how the situation finally played out.
“I don’t want to see anyone taking their own life for any reason," Moltzen said. "I had real mixed emotions about the whole thing. ‘Justice has been served’ is not something that came into my mind. It was more shock, and I felt pretty empty, actually. I just think the whole thing all the way around was very unfortunate."