OPD defends action in dog shooting

The quiet of a lazy Saturday in a small Rusk County town was suddenly interrupted by the sound of gunshots.

Overton Police Department officers were dispatched to a call at 11:23 a.m. about an altercation between two domestic animals.

According to a statement filed by the reporting officer at the scene, police arrived at the residence of Brandon and Tara Whitfield to find a medium-sized Catahoula hound “with its mouth around” a large American Bulldog in the Whitfield’s yard.

OPD officer Matthew Metzger reported the Catahoula was trying to tear the throat out of the larger dog, all while snarling and growling as he and officer John Jones drew near.

“It turned and took a small step towards Officer Jones and myself,” Metzger stated. “It then stepped back towards the white dog and started to tear at its throat again.”

Metzger came within 10 feet of the animal and fired once at the Catahoula, aiming right behind the left front leg.

“The dog moved just slightly and turned and looked at me,” Metzger stated. “I then shot the animal again in the same area. At that point the two dogs separated.”

Owner of the dogs, Tara Whitfield, was helping out at her grandmother’s yard sale when a neighbor called and alerted her.

“We drove up to see two officers standing in my yard,” Whitfield said. “I saw Boomer, my 3-1/2- year-old American Bulldog, laying on my porch covered in blood.”

“Rodeo,” the Whitfield’s 5-1/2-year-old Catahoula, was dying and had been tied down.

Whitfield disputes the events as described by the police officers, claiming that the only injuries either of the animals had suffered prior to the gunshot wounds were a few superficial lacerations, consistent with the sort of “roughhousing” that is typical for larger dogs at play.

“There was also another policeman who proceeded to tell a family friend that the officer shot them because they thought they were pit bulls,” Whitfield added.

According to documents released to the Henderson Daily News by Overton Police Chief Clyde Carter, there were previous incidents involving the Whitfield dogs.

However, the Whitfields call this into question.

“There were statements made in the police report about previous incidents in the neighborhood over the last few months that were not made until after my dogs were killed,” Whitfield said. “But we have reason to believe that these reports involved multiple dogs in the neighborhood.”

Overton city officials could not comment specifically on the case, since there is further legal action taking place with issue.

“Due to the litigation that is currently in progress, we cannot disclose much in the way of details at this time,” said city manager B.J. Potts.

Carter added that his department has nothing to hide concerning the incident and will be cooperating fully with the legal process in the matter.

In the meantime, the Whitfields will be mourning the loss of two pets that they describe as dear friends, not only to their extended families but to their 22-month-old son Gunnar.

“We’re just absolutely heartbroken about this. Everyone loved Boomer and Rodeo, especially Gunnar. They used to play games with each other all the time,” Whitfield said.

The Whitfields are pursuing legal action, and will be contacting the American Bulldog Association, as well as PETA, but it’s a meager consolation for their loss.

“Nothing can replace what they meant to us,” Whitfield said. “There’s no reason why it had to happen like this.”

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6 thoughts on “OPD defends action in dog shooting

  1. Nothing is clear from the official documents, but it’s my opinion that the shots passed through one dog, striking the other. The shots were fired at close range, and the animals were both less than fifty pounds. A standard-issue police sidearm could easily do this.

  2. It occurred to me that this would seem to be the gist of the testimonial that the officers shot “them” because they were mistaken for pit bulls. But if that is true, then the initial police report you quoted would appear to have been purposefully misleading.

  3. It seems strange to me, however, that an officer would not be able to tell the difference between a Bulldog and a Pit Bull. And how could a dog be shot through twice and simply “separate” and move elsewhere? Did the Bull Dog, after having been shot, make his way to the porch?

  4. It is of interest to me, admittedly, in so far as a digestable mystery in the real world of a comparatively simple town provides a practical study for my projected novel. But the contradictory nature of this mystery is no more curious for me than the vision of an unfolding drama in which the indignance surrounding the cruel mistreatment of two pets can often dwarf our common sense of the injustice all around us suffered by human beings… even by those two officers.

    Perhaps we could say that the interest and controversy this tiny event has engendered in those who did not even know the ones involved is an expression of helplessness. Perhaps the reason for our disinterest in the usual (and greater) injustices we take for granted arises from the fact that they seem overwhelming and beyond our capacity to effect. Apathy is, after all, a documented final response in many of those who have run out of answers. Two beloved pets, as innocent an object of our concern as any, are then turned into objects of tragedy to represent every tragic victim we did not help… a microcosm for a world of sympathy and regret. That is, at least, one interpretation.

    And it’s a moving image.

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