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