After the shooting death of an adopted foster dog by a Henderson County Sheriff’s Office deputy garnered widespread public attention, the sheriff’s office released deputy bodycam footage showing part of what happened during the encounter.
In a video posted to Facebook Nov. 30, Sheriff Lowell Griffin said the office secured a court order from a superior court judge to release the bodycam footage, which has been cut short “because there is no reason to show any graphic details,” he said in the post.
“I want to clarify the incident and make you completely aware of what the deputy faced,” Griffin said in the video. “It’s a very unfortunate situation. My heart goes out to the owners of the canine. It’s also unfortunate that the deputy was put in the position to make the decision that the deputy had to make.”
“However, I believe that the deputy not only acted in good faith, that the deputy did what the deputy needed to do to ensure his own safety,” Griffin added.
On Nov. 25, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office received an early morning call reporting a suspicious vehicle in the driveway of Paula Oppedisano-Pinkerton and Stuart Pinkerton’s home in Henderson County. The caller stated, “the home was for sale, and they didn’t believe anyone should be present at the home currently,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Oppedisano-Pinkerton and her husband have lived at the house for the past three years and her neighbors were aware that they were living there in the midst of looking for a new home, she previously told the Citizen Times.
Dog owner details incident:Henderson County Sheriff deputy fatally shoots foster dog 3 times, owners say
The Hyundai Santa Fe, which the unknown caller reported as suspicious, had been parked there most nights for the past three months since the couple purchased it in September, Oppedisano-Pinkerton said.
What the video shows
In the video, a deputy is seen arriving at the residence in response to the 911 call just after 2 a.m. He walks toward the home, and as he nears the parked vehicle that was reported as suspicious, a dog begins to bark loudly. He then starts to back up, and the dog rounds the corner of the vehicle.
“Upon arriving at the residence, (the deputy) was met almost immediately by what is commonly known as a Pitbull terrier,” Griffin said. “The canine acted very aggressive. The officer attempted to retreat, and the officer then made the decision to dispatch the canine.”
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Once the deputy shines his flashlight at the dog in the video, Steffie takes a few steps back but continues barking.
“Get back, get back,” the deputy yelled while raising his firearm. Another few seconds are shown, where Steffie is barking and running side to side, getting closer to the deputy.
The video ends before any shots are fired, and it doesn’t appear that the dog lunges at the deputy in the segment of bodycam footage released.
In response to the bodycam footage, owner Paula Oppedisano-Pinkerton told the Citizen Times it “should’ve never happened.”
“I truly wish they had simply done a registration check for what vehicles were registered to our address, or called the owner of the property, even our realtors’ number that was on the for-sale sign,” Oppedisano-Pinkerton said. “They acted on what the caller ‘knew,’ not what was real and factual at the time of the call.”
Steffie, who was saved three years ago from being euthanized at an overcrowded shelter in Rowan County by Amy McIntosh, of a Canton animal sanctuary called Misfit Mountain, was shot three times, once “in between her eyes” from 4 feet away, Oppedisano-Pinkerton said.
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After it happened, Oppedisanno-Pinkerton said the deputy told her that he has two pit bulls at home and that he has to get home to his kids.
“He was so in fear for his life — he could’ve gotten back into his car,” the owner said.
Her husband, Pinkerton, acknowledged that the deputy felt threatened by his dog, which he said had a “fierce growl,” but questioned why non-lethal force, like a taser, wasn’t used. But Pinkerton’s biggest question was, why did the call necessitate a response in the middle of the night in the first place and why weren’t the facts verified beforehand?
“About 30 seconds elapsed between the time they arrived, and the time Steffie was shot,” Pinkerton previously told the Citizen Times. “I don’t think they had a chance to really get their feet down and figure out what was going on. But my question remains, shouldn’t you have figured out what was going on before you came out to my house?”
Beyond the news releases posted on Facebook, the sheriff’s office has declined to answer further questions.
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Ryley Ober is the Public Safety Reporter for Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ryleyober