Princeton Police Chief Tyrone Sutton has released new details in the officer involved shooting of a pit bull Sunday night. The owner of Libby, a 14 month old dog rescued last year from the Harnett County Animal Shelter, is also speaking to WTSB News and JoCoReport for the first time.
At 7:33pm, an officer was dispatched to Pine Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets to attempt to locate a dog described as a brown and white pit bull that was actively aggressive.
Chief Sutton said as Officer D. Toole exited his patrol car the dog became aggressive and advanced towards the officer.
According to the press release, “Officer Toole discharged his weapon attempting to stop the advance of the animal, but failed to do so. This resulted in the dog running off. The officer reentered his vehicle, and attempted to locate the dog which he did. Upon locating the animal again, Officer Toole exited his vehicle and the dog became increasingly aggressive by barking growling, and showing its teeth. This resulted in his application of deadly force which resulted in the dog’s destruction. There were no name tags, town registration tags, or rabies tags on the collar of the dog. The dog was removed from the scene, and disposed of.”
Chief Sutton added that, “Subsequent investigation the following day revealed a bullet hole in a personally owned vehicle in the location of where the dog was destroyed. The owner of the vehicle was later determined to also be the owner of the dog. No one else was hurt and no other property was damaged in this incident.”
The police chief said the Town of Princeton would cover the damages to the vehicle caused by the bullet. Officer Toole was not wearing a body camera when the incident occurred. Sutton said the investigation into the incident was still ongoing.
Dog Owner Reacts
Emily Taylor says Princeton Police are attempting to cover up the truth about how Libby was shot and killed.
Taylor said Sunday was her birthday and she was away from home when a thunderstorm came through. Her three dogs, which are normally kept inside, were outside and during the storm were able to get loose.
Taylor said a neighbor she has had repeated problems with called Princeton Police and complained about Libby. Taylor says she came home Sunday night and found two of her 3 dogs but not Libby. She went to bed thinking everything was okay. While riding around Monday morning looking for Libby she noticed a bullet hole in the passenger side of her car.
She contacted a neighbor who told Taylor she needed to contact her sister who is a 911 dispatcher to find out what happened. Taylor says that’s when she learned her dog and car had been shot and Princeton Police never left a note.
“I went to the police department (Monday) and asked for answers. I wanted to know what happened and why we weren’t notified,” Taylor told WTSB. “An officer came out and took photos and spoke with us then left. Later another police officer came out and was attempting to retrieve the bullet from my car without permission. I have no problem with them in my car but they need to ask first. We want to cooperate but you need to ask permission first. We did allow him to look in the car.”
Ms. Taylor claims Chief Sutton arrived Monday afternoon and told her the officer did not know who owned the dog but the officer did say the dog was barking and aggressive. “It was in my yard and a stranger was in my yard trying to catch it. Yes, it would be barking because a stranger was in my yard. He was in no danger from my dog.”
“However it happened, he shot my dog in my front yard. He shot my car and then left. They didn’t even notify anyone,” Taylor told WTSB News on Wednesday.
She has asked to speak with Officer Toole to hear firsthand why he killed Libby but says Chief Sutton has denied the request.
Taylor said Princeton Police took Libby on Sunday night and buried her. She asked Chief Sutton for the animal back so she could give it a proper burial. Taylor claims Chief Sutton told her it was illegal for them to exhume the dog’s remains and return them. She also says the Town’s insurance provider was suppose to have already called her about the damages to her car but no one has yet to call.
Taylor called the Princeton Police Department’s version of events “one mistruth after another.”
“It’s not true. I know it is not true. (Libby) had a collar and tags on as well. The whole thing boils down to a cop who has no experience and shot a dog. He shot a dog two feet tall. How does he hit a car four feet in the air? There was no apology, no condolences. They are trying to cover their ass. I have contacted an attorney and the SBI. No one will do the right thing and admit it was handled wrong. I have the utmost respect for law enforcement but it was a bad situation handled very poorly. Just say ‘we screwed up’ and don’t lie, bully and dodge us. I need them to do the right thing. That’s it.”