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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Ocala Breeders’ Sales director accused of robbing PETA employee

The Director of Sales at Ocala Breeders’ Sales was arrested last week after he was accused of snatching a backpack from a PETA investigator who recorded the euthanasia of a horse involved in an accident during a racing workout.

Tod Thomas Wojciechowski, 57, was arrested on Friday, April 12, by members of the Ocala Police Department on a charge of robbery by sudden snatching.

According to an arrest report from the Ocala Police Department, a detective made contact with an individual working on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) at Ocala Breeders’ Sales (1701 SW 60th Avenue in Ocala) on Wednesday, April 10.

The victim told police that, while he was standing in the grandstands at OBS recording the event with his camera, a horse on the track crashed into the inner barrier.

Shortly after the crash, the victim told police that he walked from the grandstands into an area that was “still open to the public” with his camera.

Using the camera, the victim says he continued recording the horse after its crash with the race track barrier. While he was recording, the victim says that a high-ranking male employee at OBS arrived at the scene with another man who was later identified as Wojciechowski.

Wojciechowski and the executive allegedly both began screaming at the victim while instructing him to “shut the camera off” and “get off the property.”

The victim told law enforcement that he proceeded to put his camera in his pocket and began leaving the premises.

Tod Thomas Wojciechowski, 57, of Ocala
Tod Thomas Wojciechowski, 57, of Ocala

According to the victim’s statement, the two men then demanded that he “give them his camera,” and they further advised that the victim was not allowed to leave. Wojciechowski then allegedly attempted to snatch a backpack that the victim was carrying.

A struggle ensued, and Wojciechowski allegedly grabbed the victim’s left forearm while pulling on the backpack. Wojciechowski eventually snatched the backpack, which contained approximately $380 worth of items belonging to the victim, according to the report.

The victim told investigators that OBS still had possession of his backpack.

An OPD detective viewed three videos that had been recorded by the victim. According to the report, the first two videos were taken from the grandstand area, and the third video showed the victim approaching the injured horse.

In the report, the detective noted that the third video “suddenly dropped down” as a voice instructed the victim to, “Put (the) damn camera down.” The last frame of the video showed a person’s arm and a partial shirt, but no faces were shown.

An OPD officer responded to OBS and made contact with Wojciechowski. During an interview, Wojciechowski admitted to having an issue earlier regarding a person recording a video. He claimed that the area was “private property,” and that he had tried to stop the person from recording there.

The report stated that the officer walked around the incident location, and the area was “open to the public” with “no signs prohibiting pictures or videos.”

On Thursday, April 11, OPD showed the victim a photo lineup of potential suspects in this case. During that photo lineup, the victim identified Wojciechowski as the man who had taken his backpack and battered him.

The following day, Wojciechowski was arrested and transported to Marion County Jail. He was released on his own recognizance the same day, and he is being charged with robbery by sudden snatching.

A court date has not been scheduled yet, according to jail records.

PETA shared a video allegedly obtained by the victim, as well as footage from the OBS live stream of the event, which has since been removed from the OBS YouTube channel.

In the video, the horse (“Frosten”) can be seen racing along the track for a short distance before attempting to jump over the inside track barrier. The horse is then seen colliding at high speed with the barrier, causing the jockey to be thrown from the horse’s back.

After the horse is tended to and administered injections of a pink fluid, it goes stiff. Seconds after the horse goes stiff, an individual can be heard telling the PETA employee to “put your damn camera down,” in the video, which then ends abruptly.