Local News

May 7, 2014

Dog shot to death in suspect hunt

— Carrie Carson said she just wants to make sure no other dogs have to die like her 10-month-old pit bull did with a bullet to his head last week.

The Whitfield County woman said Narley, a white dog with black markings, met his end when law enforcement officers from several agencies came to her house May 1 looking for a man who officials said is wanted in Whitfield County on meth charges and in Tennessee on gun-related charges. They didn’t find him, but when Narley saw the officers and police dog Vince outside his home, he came outside.

Seven law enforcement officers gave commands for someone to restrain Narley, whom they believed was in “attack mode,” but no one acted in time, officials said. Instead, said Tunnel Hill Police Chief Roy Brunson, Narley came growling toward Vince and reared back as if to attack. That’s when Lt. Scott Reneau shot the pit bull in the head, killing it, Brunson said.

“It’s very unfortunate. We’re all animal lovers around here,” Brunson said. “It’s nothing we take any (pleasure) in doing.”

Carson said she believes Reneau’s action was premature since Narley hadn’t attacked. Plus, she said, if Reneau had been carrying a less lethal device like a stun gun or a tranquilizer, her cherished pet would still be alive.

Carson said she’s researching ways to mandate that officers have additional training in non-lethal methods to handle situations with animals and that they carry and use weapons that in most situations could stop a threat without shedding blood.

“I don’t want to sue the department,” she said. “I want the department to wake up and hear me and back me.”

Reneau referred questions to Brunson, who said the incident happened in the afternoon at a home on Hiwassee Way, which is just outside Dalton’s city limits in the Reed Road area.

Brunson said Tunnel Hill officers were only there as backup to assist U.S. Marshals and Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office investigators who were looking for the man who is wanted in Whitfield County for selling meth and on gun-related charges in Bradley County, Tenn. Information on the exact charges in Tennessee was unclear, and a sheriff’s office spokesman said department policy there is to not release warrant information except to other law enforcement agencies.

Gavin Duffy, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, said officers were searching for Brian Shelton, 33. Shelton’s last known address wasn’t immediately available, but Duffy said it is believed to be in the Whitfield County area. Investigators got a tip Shelton might be at the home on Hiwassee Way. They didn’t find him there, and they’re still looking for him.

Carson said the incident began last Thursday afternoon when she heard law enforcement officers at her door telling her and her father, who were both inside, to come out. Narley heard the commotion and went out through a window before she could restrain him, she said.

Carson said she had about seven seconds to react as Narley did what was only natural for him. By the time she was able to get her bearings and go outside, it was too late, she said.

“They kept saying, ‘Get your dog,’ and my dad was trying to get him,” she said. “My dog had not even made contact with the dog or the officer, he was just approaching.”

“I was coming out the door as they shot him,” she said. “I think they could have taken other actions, maybe Tasered him, or something else besides shooting him in the head.”

Brunson said Tasers, or stun guns, aren’t usually effective on animals, which have thick hair that can prevent the electrical shocks from penetrating them.

“Our policy is to use only what force we need to in any situation, but Tasers are not designed necessarily for dogs,” Brunson said. “When a dog is in the attack mode, you have to do something to stop the threat.”

Under state law, police dogs are considered sworn officers. Brunson said Vince appeared to the officers on scene to be the target of Narley’s impending attack.

Carson said she believes officers should have tried something else besides a shot to the head on Narley. She said she has a “beware of dog” sign on the property leading to her home. She said that while she knows Shelton, she hadn’t seen him in more than a week, and he wasn’t in her home at the time officers arrived.

“They were given a tip that supposedly there was an armed invader suspect or wanted person in my house, and there wasn’t,” she said. “My dog is dead now because of it.”

Duffy said anyone with information on Shelton’s whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers Atlanta at (404) 577-TIPS. Callers can leave information anonymously and could receive a cash reward for information leading to an arrest, he said.

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