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Major says investigation backs deputies who shot man's dogs

Hall County Sheriff’s Office pays vet bill for surviving pet’s care

POSTED: June 29, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Frank Reeves’ bullet-wounded dog Leonard spent Tuesday night in a Murrayville animal hospital courtesy of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Reeves is glad that Leonard is getting the medical treatment he needs, but says he is wary that the same sheriff’s office that was responsible for the death of his dog Betsy, will take care of Leonard.

"(A woman at the clinic) said she was going to keep him overnight, so I don’t know whether they might kill him or what. They better not," Reeves said. "I don’t know what’s going on. They better not hurt my dog. I just got Leonard and Homer left, that’s it, but I hope they take care of my dog."

A departmental investigation concluded that Hall County sheriff’s deputies were justified when they fired on Reeves’ three boxers — killing a female dog named Betsy and injuring Leonard — in Reeves’ home Monday morning, Hall County Sheriff’s Maj. Terry Conner said.

Conner did not provide the report from the internal investigation to The Times because he said it was not ready Tuesday.

"The dogs came running from a back bedroom in a full strut; they were growling at the time and (deputies indicated) that they were unable to back out of the house. They indicated that they had no other choice but to fire," Conner said.

Usually, when deputies kill or injure a dog in the line of duty and their actions are deemed justified, it is the dog owner’s responsibility to pay for the dog’s treatment, Conner said.

"We as a department, we want to do what’s right. ... With the owner not being able to ... to seek the treatment that was necessary, we felt like the most humane thing we could do at the time or this morning was to take the dog and make sure it got the treatment that it needed," Conner said.

The department’s Internal Affairs unit visited Reeves’ home Tuesday morning, and Conner said the investigators later said the deputies were justified when they shot at Reeves’ dogs.

Reeves’ friend Jamie Bross, who said he was at Reeves’ home when the investigator arrived, told a different story, however.

"They said they thought it was pretty much wrongful what happened, because the dog was tied up," Bross said. "... He seen where the dog was tied up to that fan and said it was wrong," Bross said.

Although the deputies who shot Reeves’ dogs were carrying pepper spray and batons with which they could have defended themselves from the growling dogs, Conner said the deputies did not have time to decide which weapon to use when the dogs came toward them.

"It all happened so quickly. The officers were actually inside the residence and the dogs came running at them from an adjacent back room, and it happened so quick, growling and barking, coming at them ... It was just their reaction on their part," Conner said.

"We don’t want to end up to have to shoot a dog. ... That was the last thing they would have wanted to do."

Although one of Reeves’ neighbors and his friends said Reeves’ dogs are harmless and the deputies actions were uncalled for, another neighbor said he understood why the deputies would shoot Reeves dogs.

George Blackwell, a Baker Road resident, said two of Reeves’ dogs once ran at his daughter while she played in the driveway.

"They charged at her. If I hadn’t a been up there they would have got her," Blackwell said. "... They was growling at her then, trying to bite her. If I hadn’t a picked up a rock and hit him ... He was big time at my girl out here."

Blackwell said ever since then, he meets his daughters at the bus stop, because he is afraid for them to walk to the house alone.

"I always have me something to knock the devil out of them," Blackwell said. "I like dogs and things like that, but I think they should stay in their places... (Reeves) just letting them run out there having they way. They supposed to have a chain on them or have them in a pen."

Since 1999, two of Reeves’ neighbors have made three formal complaints to Gainesville-Hall County Animal Control about his dogs running loose in the area, according to documents obtained through the Open Records Act.

Animal Control never cited Reeves though, because every time an officer went to check the complaints, Reeves’ dogs were tethered at his house, according to the reports.

In April 2007, Betsy bit a child, but Animal Control did not write a citation or deem her a dangerous dog because the bite was provoked, Gainesville-Hall County’s Animal Control Director Mike Ledford said. A group of children were throwing rocks and screaming at Betsy when she bit one of the children, according to the report.

Reeves maintains that his dogs are harmless.

"My dogs ain’t mean to nobody," Reeves said. "... I don’t have a reason to tell no lie."

Reeves, who was in another room when deputies came in his house to arrest his nephew, Clyde Jess Reeves III, on a June 11 felony warrant Monday morning, said he heard anywhere between 15 and 20 rounds fired inside his home. His neighbor, Tommy Waters, who said he heard the gunshots from his home said he heard at least 12 shots fired.

"It was like Vietnam," Reeves said. "They’s bullet holes all through this house."

After the deputies shot at the three dogs, they picked up all of the shell casings that had fallen on the floor. Reeves said he asked the deputies for the shell casings, but they did not give them to him and said that the casings were their property.

Conner said one of the deputies reported that he fired seven shots in Reeves’ home and the other deputy said he fired his gun twice. Conner did not know whether it was police procedure for deputies to pick up shell casings after using their guns.

"I imagine that they just wanted to pick it up," Conner said.

Although Leonard is getting the medical attention he needs for his gunshot wounds, Reeves questions whether the sheriff’s deputies were too free with their guns during the Monday morning incident that forced him to bury his dog of seven years in the back yard.

"They had no respect. They’d a killed anything that moved. People like that don’t need a gun," Reeves said. "If they don’t have respect for who we are, then we don’t need to pay them taxes."



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