Eastern Wake News

Wendell police: Investigation finds officer acted legally in shooting of approaching dog

The police department here has determined one of its officers acted within the law this summer when he shot and killed a dog he believed was let loose to attack him by a man wanted by police.

Police Chief Bill Carter, however, used the words “unfortunate” and “regrettable” to describe the Aug. 15 incident, now knowing the dog did not belong to the man police sought that afternoon, but was instead another man’s family pet.

The felony charge of assaulting a government official with a deadly weapon, brought against the Wendell man who was not the dog’s owner, has yet to be settled in court.

Allen White, whose son owned the dog, remains appalled with the way police handled the situation. He also believes the felony charge should be dropped against Dustin Lee Brown, 28, of 6400 Robertson Pond Road.

Initial charge

Police said Wendell Sgt. S. G. Hall and Officer Lenward Hanks were responding to a tip that Brown, who had outstanding warrants for failure to appear in court, was at a residence at 745 Lions Club Road.

Hall spotted Brown in the yard as the officers arrived and Brown fled to the back of the residence, police said. After the officers spoke outside with an occupant for several minutes, a large dog came from the front of the home toward the officers in what they reported to be a threatening manner.

Both officers drew their service weapons and Hanks fired a single, fatal shot. No people were injured.

A warrant issued by a Wake County magistrate charged Brown assaulted Hanks with a “Black and Tan Rottweiler, approximately 130 lbs in weight” by “releasing said dog for the purpose of biting, attacking.” Brown was also charged with resisting an officer and served the three outstanding warrants.

Internal investigation

Carter said all information gleaned from a follow-up investigation – including what role, if any, Brown played in the incident, and Hanks’ use of force – was submitted to the district attorney’s office to be considered with the case.

“We have an obligation to gather all facts we can on any investigation and report them to the district attorney’s office to ensure justice is properly served,” Carter said. “You do that in two phases, you have your initial investigation and your follow up investigation.”

Capt. John Slaughter and Sgt. Henry Gibbs led the department’s internal investigation, which in October determined, “there was no criminal conduct” in shooting the dog, Carter said. Hanks was never taken off active duty.

Carter declined to release information about the investigation into Brown, and said the police department cannot drop the initial felony charge against Brown.

Brown was scheduled to appear in court Monday but his lawyer filed for a continuance Tuesday, a spokesperson in the clerk of court’s office said.

Another perspective

The killed Rottweiler was a 5-year-old rescue dog named Maggie, owned by Bryan White. Allen White says Maggie actually weighed 85 pounds, and was anything but an attack dog.

“She slept with my 5-year-old granddaughter,” Allen White said. “I knew the dog and I kept the dog at times, and I couldn’t get that dog to attack my cat. To say (Brown) had the dog attack the officer is absurd.”

White said Brown was at his son’s home on Lions Club Road because he had been hired to install hardwood floors, and while police were searching for Brown, Maggie came running around the house to greet them.

White wrote a lengthy letter to Carter after the incident, expressing the family’s grief and asking for an apology and for Hanks’ dismissal.

“None of that came to be,” White said Wednesday. “I never was satisfied. I can’t bring my dog back. I’ve still got a bitter taste in my mouth.”

The letter also asked for police to dismiss the charge against Brown, arguing a misunderstanding shouldn’t have the potential to ruin a young man’s life.

“Anyone can make a mistake and if either officer even considers that what I am describing is what actually took place, then I would ask them to drop this ridiculous charge on the young man,” White wrote. “I knew the dog and if there is such a thing as character reference for a dog, I’ll weigh in with the dog.”