First, yes, I know that this post probably does not belong on a billiards forum, but since so many of you are friends and associates, I thought that it might be a forgivable sin... Plus, you good folks might actually be willing to lend me some support!
I am a friend of Jeff Daniels, the man whose beloved pet was shot and killed by Sheriff's Deputy Animal Control Officer Sean C. Austin on Thursday, April 29, 2010 in Concord, NC last week.
The purpose of this email is to alert you to the present situation, with the hopes that you will be able to lend some support to the cause for justice. I hope that you will at least share this with the people you know who are actively acting in the support of animals.
It is clear to anyone familiar with the NC General Statutes, the Cabarrus County Animal Control Ordinance, the City of Concord Code of Ordinances, and the United States Code (specifically 42 USC 1983, which affords civil liberties protections for US citizens) that, at a minimum, Deputy Austin operated outside of the law when he discharged his firearm in the city, thereby depriving Mr. Daniels and his family their property without the due process of law. In fact, his actions were, in my opinion, criminal under at least NCGS 14-360(a) and 14-160(a). Statements made by him, Sgt. Bryan Archer, and even Sheriff Brad Riley are quite damning confessions of their breaches of the law.
Here is a small part of the 17 minute hidden-camera interview of the shooter, taken by the owner of the dog, wherein Deputy Austin says he never saw the dog being aggressive, and that he shot it because she wasn't worth his time:
Here is a video of the two dogs meeting some neighborhood kids:
Though a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Bryan Archer, says in the news clip that he had been told that the dogs showed signs of aggression, this is completely refuted by the shooter, and several witness accounts. Here is the statement of one witness to the events:
On Thursday, April 29th my husband and I were visiting (redacted) in the Ridge Crossing subdivision. Around 6:40 pm my husband had plans to leave and while walking outside, we heard some commotion towards the street. My husband left but (redacted), and I pursued to find out what all the commotion was about. There were two Police cars sitting in the middle of the road while a male and female officer walked around appearing to be looking for something. That is when we saw a gray, female pit bull running loose down the street. We approached the female officer after a few minutes and asked her what was going on; she informed us that they had received a 911 call from a lady down the road saying there were two stray pit bulls running loose around the neighborhood. She told us that they had already retrieved the second one, a white male, as he immediately came to her when called and jumped into the backseat of her vehicle. The gray, female pit bull circled around a couple of the houses across the street. We, along with a couple neighbors, called out to her several times in passing but she continued to run.
After about 15 minutes of failed attempts, (redacted) suggested to the female officer to take the white, male dog out on a leash to see if the female would come to him. The officer was hesitant and responded by saying they did not know how the male would react towards them. The female continued to run and seemed very scared and unsure of where to go or what to do. She continued to circle a couple of the houses nearby but appeared to stay close. She would not get any closer than 10-15 feet of anyone. She did not show any signs of aggression and appeared to be well taken care of. After a few more minutes, and still no luck of catching her, (redacted) again suggested to the female officer to take the male out of the car. The officer said they did not have a leash; so (redacted) went inside to retrieve a collar and leash. When she came back outside, the Animal Control officer arrived at that moment and the idea was not addressed further.
The Animal Control officer first put the white male dog into the back of his truck. He then pursued to catch the gray female with a catch pole. She was still running circles around a small group of houses and wouldn’t get near anyone. A few times she was encountered by someone she would stop to look at them and bark. She never showed her teeth or growled, just barked; after a few seconds of barking she would start running again. Occasionally, the female would run to the Animal Control vehicle where the male had been put and she would sniff around; she appeared to be looking for him. She would linger around the vehicle for a few brief moments but when someone would attempt to get close to her she would run. At this point, there were quite a few other neighbors trying to catch her, including the lady who called in the report about this “dangerous” dog. The female appeared to become more scared as more people came to chase her. There was even a neighbor chasing her with a stick. But still, she never showed any aggression or anger. The only emotion she showed was fear, as she ran continuously and barked a few times. There were also several kids playing basketball not too far from where the officer vehicles were parked and where the female was running loose. She never approached or went near the kids.
About 10 minutes later and several attempts to catch the gray female, the Animal Control officer went to his vehicle and got a gun. (redacted) and I believed this to be a tranquilizer gun as it had the appearance of a silver paintball gun, not a rifle. While the officer had the gun the female went to the vehicle again that housed the male. The officers and several neighbors attempted to surround the female but she raced away when someone got too close. The Animal Control officer chased after her and when she got between the house directly across the street from where (redacted) and I were standing the officer shot her. She immediately screamed and bolted in the opposite direction from the officer. It was difficult to determine where she was hit but her legs fluttered a bit and she looked as though she was losing her balance. We lost sight of her when she ran behind some long grass and bushes after about 20 feet. The Animal Control officer, the Police officers, and a neighbor ran around the side of the house to follow her. After only a few minutes, the male Police officer came back around the corner heading towards the Animal Control vehicle. (redacted) asked the officer in passing if they had caught her and he said yes. He quickly got into the vehicle and took off down the street to the next cul-de-sac. The pit bull and Animal Control officer were not seen again; only the Police officers to get their vehicles and leave.
A short time after these events occurred, the owner of the pit bulls pulled in front of my in-laws house where (redacted) and I were still standing. He told us he had heard what was happening from a neighbor and rushed over as quickly as he could. He asked what had happened so (redacted) and I told him the events we had witnessed. He asked who called the police and we told him that it was the neighbors down the street. He thanked us and walked down the street to see if he could get further information about what happened. At this time, it was unknown that the female had been shot with a gun and presumed dead.
Here is an excerpt from another witness' statement:
We chased her up the street into a yard at the dead end and she ran back to the street entrance to where the other dog was now in the animal control officer's truck in a cage. She kept looking at the truck. Then several people gathered around the truck and she ran back to the dead end of the street. My son and I had her cornered in ta yard and she never growled our showed any aggression towards us. She was very frightened and she was trying to get over the fence in the backyard of this house because she would have been on her street and near her owner's home had she been able to get over the fence. Just as I got close enough to try to put the noose on her neck, a male neighbor carrying a broomstick came around the corner and yelled at her and tried to strike her with the broomstick. She ran again towards the street entrance. My son Kory went inside and got a bowl of left over BBQ and placed it at the animal control officer's truck in the hope that she would stop to sniff or eat and we could catch her. By this time, there were numerous persons chasing this animal and she just ran up Brookstone St. and Kory and I lost sight of her. The entire time we were chasing this animal I never saw her show any aggression. She never growled, She never lunged at anyone, she just ran away and tried to get away.
There are numerous other witness statements that fully corroborate these, and refute any claims that the dog was ever aggressive or threatening. In fact, though her story has changed over time, here is an excerpt of a statement from Sheriff's Deputy April Samples, a resident of the neighborhood, who was the first to respond when a neighbor was afraid because the dogs were in her yard with a child present (we ALL would probably be a bit scared under these same situations, just in case, right?):
I then talked to the dogs trying to pet them and keep them in that back yard until the Concord Police Dept could get there to assist me in finding who they belonged to due to the fact they had no collars or tags on them. The white dog seemed fine, but the silver dog seemed aggitated or maybe freaked out because he didn't know where he was. By the time Concord Police got there, they had ran. Concord Police, myself, and several neighbors tried to catch the dogs. The white dog was caught pretty quickly and was friendly. The silver dog kept running thru yards. I even went in the house and got a dog treat, trying to pat my leg and nicely call the dog thinking I could get him into my fenced in backyard so he could be contained until the owners were located.
Here is NewsChannel 36's beginning coverage of the reckless behavior of the City of Concord Police and Sheriff's Deputy. Note yet another witness to the event saying clearly that there were no signs of aggression. Even if there were, the shooting still would have been unlawful, unless the dog was in the act of attacking a person. Note as well the proximity of the shooting to nearby children:
Here is the Fox coverage:
Here is coverage in the Charlotte Observer:
The Sheriff's Deputy Animal Control Officer clearly violated the law, which makes no provision for anyone to kill a loose dog. Seizure of the animal by authorities is, of course, allowable, yet there is a process that must be followed to be lawful (or even Constitutional under the 14th Amendment).
Currently, the Sheriff is conducting an investigation of his own department:
"We are investigating this matter. Though we have not completed the investigation, we are very near completion and at this time, we have not received any substantial information from the investigation that leads us to believe the officer acted inappropriately." --Sheriff Brad Riley
Unfortunately, it would appear that Sheriff Riley is either:
• in denial of the actual circumstances;
• unaware of what the laws and ordinances of the US, the State, the County, and the City; or
• engaged in actions most politely described as "preservation of self and department."
The Daniels family is currently speaking with an NC animal law firm.
I am sure that you are just as alarmed, concerned, and appalled by this affair as I am, or any other reasonable person would be.
If there is anything you can do to help spread the word, contact public officials or the media, or lend financial support, please let me know. Donations are being accepted for awareness activities and legal expenses on ChipIn:
Alternatively, donations via PayPal can be sent to email@example.com
Here is the Facebook group for Justice for Bella:
Please consider joining, and sharing it with your friends.
Thank you very much for your attention, now go shoot some stick