The Tennessee policeman who shot and killed a family’s dog during a terrorizing traffic stop took just three seconds to slay the animal after it jumped out its owners’ car, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.
Law-enforcement authorities released a videotape of the incident yesterday, which shows the three-second time frame on the tape’s counter.
The Cookeville police officer who shot the dog, Eric Hall, has since been reassigned to administrative duties while the incident is probed.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Smoak family was returning to their home in North Carolina on New Year’s Day when three police cars swarmed their vehicle on Interstate 40 in what appeared to be a traffic stop.
The Smoaks appear on CNN
A Tennessee Highway Patrol officer broadcast orders over a bullhorn for driver James Smoak to toss the keys out of the car window, get out with his hands up and walk backwards to the rear of the car. Smoak obeyed and was subsequently ordered onto his knees and handcuffed at gunpoint. Officers similarly handcuffed his wife, Pamela, and their 17-year-old son with their guns drawn.
As the troopers were putting the family members inside the patrol car, one of the Smoak family dogs, a boxer-bulldog mix named Patton, came out of the car and headed toward one of the Cookeville officers who were assisting the THP troopers.
“That officer had a flashlight on his shotgun, and the dog was going toward that light, and the officer shot him, just blew his head off,” Pamela Smoak told the Herald-Citizen. “We had begged them to shut the car doors so our dogs wouldn’t get out, [but] they didn’t do that.”
The Smoaks had been pulled over by mistake after someone reported seeing the car getting on the highway with cash flying out from behind the vehicle. James Smoak, it turns out, had mistakenly left his wallet on the roof of the car when he stopped to get gas. Someone within the THP reportedly thought a robbery had occurred, though it turns out none had.
Hall claimed he was acting in self-defense.
“I yelled at the dog to get back, but it attempted to circle me to attack, so I felt that I had no option but to protect myself,” the officer wrote in a police report.
Police Chief Bob Terry told the Herald-Citizen, “We are aware there is a lot of criticism out there over this incident, and we want to take [Hall] off the road and let him perform other duties while we get this all resolved.” Terry stressed that Hall was not being punished for killing the dog.
The Herald-Citizen reports that “to an average viewer, the scene recorded on the video may not demonstrate the aggressiveness or the threat the officer said he experienced as the dog came toward him.”
Terry said he will have two unrelated police agencies perform independent reviews of the incident.
“We once again extend our deepest concerns to the Smoak family for their loss,” Terry said. “We know this was a terrible experience for them, and we truly wish that we could undo the events that occurred on the night of Jan. 1.”
The Smoaks recently told their story on CNN’s “Connie Chung Tonight.”
Speaking of Patton, son Brandon Smoak told Chung, “He’s the gentlest dog that I’ve ever been around. He’s like Scooby Doo. He wasn’t mean at all.”