Paul Sableman via Wikimedia Commons

A homeless Iraq War veteran was reportedly wrongfully arrested by abusive Gastonia police officers in North Carolina. The officers also tased his VA-provided service dog. Even though witnesses say Rohrer wasn’t armed or harassing passerby, the encounter ended with his arrest, and eventually, his battle buddy’s death.

According to reports, Joshua Graham Rohrer was simply standing on a median near a Gastonia shopping center with his dog Sunshine on Oct. 13 when a 911 caller contacted police.

Rohrer deployed to Kuwait and Iraq from October 2004 to November 2005 with the Kentucky Army National Guard. He suffers from service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder, and his 2-year-old Belgian Malinois Sunshine was his Veterans Affairs-prescribed treatment.

Regarding the incident, the Army Times reported Rohrer as saying:

I was just standing there, waving at people, when this lady waved me over and offered me money. I was accused of falsely using my dog to get money from people and asking people for money but that’s not true.

Rohrer added that as soon as he took the money offered to him, the police drove up, “aggressively, with the lights on and everything.”

According to the Army Times, “Rohrer argued that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and the officer on scene called for back-up. Police asked Rohrer to produce a valid state ID, which Rohrer said he didn’t have, stating that he only had a VA card.”

Justyn Huffman and Nydia Conley witnessed Rohrer’s arrest, telling local TV station WCNC that they saw officers surround Rohrer during the Oct. 13 encounter.

“The officer asked him for his ID,” Huffman said. “He wasn’t moving fast enough so he tried to reach into his pocket to get his ID. They slammed him up against the car and they put cuffs on him.”

That’s when Sunshine jumped up on the hood trying to help Rohrer. He said: “She was just doing her job, licking me and trying to calm me down,” Rohrer said. “The cops started yelling at her and me, telling me to get her to settle down but they wouldn’t allow me to physically get control of her.”

The Army Times added:

Rohrer said Sunshine nipped at one of the officer’s ankles as she was hopping down from the hood of the car, prompting the officer to tase her.

“We’re out here screaming, ‘Don’t shoot the dog! Don’t shoot the dog!’” Huffman said.

Huffman said Sunshine ran to a nearby store with one of the taser prongs dangling off her body while police took Rohrer to the back of the car and “slammed him on the pavement.”

“It was really traumatizing,” Conley said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Rohrer was arrested on charges of solicitation and resisting arrest.

As he was taken away by police for booking, The Army Times notes Rohrer said he begged the officers to let Sunshine come with him. He reportedly cited a North Carolina statute that affords people with disabilities the right to keep their service dogs with them, especially in cases where the individual’s health is at risk.

They laughed at me,” he said. “I begged them to bring her to me or to give her to an officer to take with them but they wouldn’t listen, they didn’t care.”

Rohrer never saw Sunshine again. While his friend and fellow veteran Dave Dowell was able to get his hands on the service dog that night, she later slipped her leash and ran away while Rohrer was still in jail.

He was released the next day after posting bail and facing more insensitive treatment by the police, saying they laughed at him and continually told him how horrible of a person he was, Rohrer claimed. He immediately began searching for his dog. After nearly two days, Sunshine was found in nearby Shelby, where Dowell lives.

She had been hit by a car and killed.

After learning of his dog’s death, Rohrer had a PTSD episode and tried throwing himself in front of cars. He had to be treated at the VA Medical Center in Asheville for injuries suffered during his breakdown.

The Gastonia Police Department told Military Times that although Rohrer will go to court for the charges against him, the department is now looking into the incident to “determine if the conduct of our officers was appropriate.”

The Army Times noted that Rohrer’s case was recently accepted by the Veterans Justice Outreach program, which works “to identify justice-involved Veterans and contact them through outreach, in order to facilitate access to VA services at the earliest possible point.”

While the program doesn’t provide legal counsel, it points veterans in the right direction.

A Facebook group – “Support Joshua Rohrer and Sunshine Rae” announced that a protest will take place in front of the Gastonia Police Department Oct. 29.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AmericanActionNews.com


Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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Bug D
Bug D
2 months ago

That was a bad scene…..I know the cops have a tough job and I’m certainly sympathetic but it just goes to show you that sometimes things might not be exactly what they appear and you have to be careful before jumping to conclusions. Bummer all around

Donald Cook
Donald Cook
2 months ago
Reply to  Bug D

if proven true, all of those Officers, should be Fired

Georgla Stafford
Georgla Stafford
2 months ago
Reply to  Donald Cook

I Agree!

mike grunewld
mike grunewld
2 months ago
Reply to  Donald Cook

not only fired but prosecuted and Never hold a job in law enforcement

Charles M.
2 months ago
Reply to  Donald Cook

Charged with unlawful assault and fired . Bunch of total jerks and then wonder why they get a bad rap.

Albert Hess
Albert Hess
2 months ago
Reply to  Bug D

Why are so many cops bums?

James VanDyke
James VanDyke
2 months ago
Reply to  Albert Hess

I’ll TELL you Why, and I’ve seen a LOT of it and have even known Several that I went to school with that became cops. Most of them weren’t “cool enough” or attractive enough or the somewhat appealing, popular kind of people that make it in the private sector, so they end up, often CHOOSING Law Enforcement, because they are GIVEN Authority and THAT alone makes them feel pretty good. THEN, it’s just another form of Abuse of Power when they Can’t or Don’t control it. A Very SAD but TRUE part of Life. HUMAN NATURE.
WHAT kind of SICK people would treat Another Human Being this way? IF this is pretty much Factual, these Deranged sons of b tches should be BEATEN to within an inch of death, THEN Fined a handsome sum and OF COURSE be Fired WITH FULL DISCLOSURE OF THIS HEINOUS ACTION ON THEIR PERMANENT RECORDS. These Evil bastards are not FIT to be members of a Society__ they just PROVED IT.

Albert Hess
Albert Hess
2 months ago
Reply to  James VanDyke

Functionally small penises?

A-Jay
A-Jay
2 months ago
Reply to  Albert Hess

I don’t find “so may cops bums” but boy do they take a lot of guff from ungrateful people.
A big problem is that there a number of vets that have fallen through the cracks because of addiction and often their only friends are the caregivers at the VA.
I guess I’m an enabler because I often cough up a few coins when I see these ragged guy panhandling.

BadMan
BadMan
2 months ago
Reply to  Albert Hess

Not bums, punks.

Charles M.
2 months ago
Reply to  Albert Hess

Power

Pawn
Pawn
2 months ago
Reply to  Bug D

I was a cop and whaat the cops did was way wrong and what abunch of cowards. You don’t have to be assholes to a guy you may think is panhandling. You could be nice and figure it out. The orginial cop(s) were total assholes, if this is true and they killed a dog and nearly killed a man (because he almost killed himself). No cops havde a tough job but these assholes were way wrong and should be fired.. all of them

buffalolips
buffalolips
2 months ago
Reply to  Pawn

As a retired cop (retired 20+ years ago), when men were still men, listen to me my brothers and sisters. You cops better wake up fast (if it isn’t already too late) because the broader public is about to turn on you with a unimaginable vengeance if this kind of crap (including Covid) continues across the country.

Trump Supporter
Trump Supporter
2 months ago
Reply to  Bug D

I hate to say “I told you so!;” however, it sounds like Gastonia has a “Rodney King” type incident on their hands and the population wants to defund the Gestapo!

Albert Hess
Albert Hess
2 months ago

2% of cops are scumbags.
96% of cops know who the scumbags are.
They do the safe thing and keep their mouths shut

Dean
Dean
2 months ago

That is one side of the story.

Albert Hess
Albert Hess
2 months ago
Reply to  Dean

What is the other side?
That Joe Biden does nothing for our Vets?