UPDATE at 4:55 p.m., Wednesday, May 25, 2016: PETA is offering reward money for the arrest and conviction of a suspect. See details below. First posted at 6:02 a.m.

It was a horrific crime, witnessed by many.

A man picked up, threw down and fatally beat a small dog that had escaped from his minivan in Little Tokyo, near the downtown Arts District, police said.

And it happened at 1:30 p.m. on May 14  near the corner of East First and Alameda streets, cops said yesterday.

“Several calls were generated by passersby who witnessed the killing,” said Los Angeles Police Department Det. Alfredo Reyes of the Animal Cruelty Task Force.

Here's what LAPD, in a statement, says happened:

    A witness reported that he observed a small dog jump out of a Dodge Caravan in the 1600 block of East First Street, in the City of Los Angeles.

The driver of the vehicle exited and chased the dog. When the driver caught the dog, he punched it, then threw it onto the sidewalk several times, until it died. He then returned to his vehicle and fled the location, leaving the dog behind. 

 Responding officers recovered the dog's carcass, but the suspect was long gone, Reyes told us.

Cops think the suspect might be homeless, he said. So that vehicle, so close to Skid Row, might indeed be a van down by the river.  “I believe this person might even be living in that van,” the detective said.

Investigators also believe the man probably owned the dog, described as a toy breed — possibly a Yorkie mix, Reyes said.

The guy cops are looking for is white, about 55, 6 feet, 1 inch, 280 pounds, with balding gray hair, cops said. “The visual stands out,” Reyes said. “He's a pretty big guy.”

The vehicle is a 1996 to 2000 Dodge Caravan in silver or gray. A witness snapped a photograph of the van. The detective says that if you pay close attention, you'll notice that the tone of the back bumper and passenger side doors don't exactly match the color of the rest of the vehicle.

A PETA spokeswoman says it's possible the organization will end up offering a reward in the case.

“We are talking with the police, who are actively investigating at this time, and they know that we are interested in offering a reward,” she said.

Anyone who knows where this van or where this suspect is was urged to call police at 213-486-0450 or 877-527-3247.

UPDATE at 4:55 p.m., Wednesday, May 25, 2016: PETA today said that it was indeed offering a reward of “up to” $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

“This little dog endured an agonizing, terrifying death when his head was bashed against the sidewalk by a disturbed and violent man,” said PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange. “PETA is urging anyone with information about this man to come forward now so that he can be held accountable for his crimes and stopped from hurting anyone else.”

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