Investigation of Kingsport officer's shooting of pit bull continues; DA asked TBI to 'look into a few more things'

Rain Smith • Sep 22, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The investigation into a Kingsport police officer’s fatal shooting of a fenced-in pit bull is continuing, according to a spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The dog was killed June 21 as police responded to an unrelated call in the area of Carrington Court. At the request of Sullivan County District Attorney Greeley Wells, the TBI launched an investigation into the incident a few days later.

“That is still an ongoing investigation at this time,” said the TBI spokesperson in a Tuesday morning e-mail. “The DA asked us to look into a few more things. We should be wrapping up fairly soon.”

Wells said he asked that some items from the scene, such as the officer’s gun, be sent to the TBI lab for forensic examination. Those results have yet to come in.

In the past, the conclusions from TBI reports have been made public, but not the contents of the findings.

According to police reports, the incident occurred about 7 p.m. Police said they were looking for two men connected with suspicious activity in the area of Carrington Court.

Deputy Chief David Quillin told the Times-News that Officer Darrell Johnson stepped over a low wire fence on Derwood Court. He then “encountered three pit bull/bulldog-type dogs.”

“Those dogs charged at him in a very aggressive manner,” Quillin said.

“(Johnson) tried to retreat, but he did not have that opportunity. They continued to charge at him in a very aggressive manner, and that’s when he was forced to fire. As a result, one of the pit bulls died,” Quillin said.

Richie Hammonds, 1005 Derwood Court, No. 4, had owned “Mace” for three years, since he was a puppy. His girlfriend, along with two other witnesses to the incident who spoke with the Times-News, believe Johnson’s shooting of Mace was unnecessary.

While Johnson’s report on the incident states he traveled about 20 feet into the fenced-in yard when he encountered the dogs, witnesses have told the Times-News that he only placed one foot over the electric fence.

“He put his foot back outside the fence, pulled out his weapon and shot him,” said Jonathan Suit, Hammonds’ neighbor. “There wasn’t a noise made, the dog wasn’t running. It was just walking toward him.”

“The officer stepped over the fence,” said Amanda Bellamy, another of Hammonds’ neighbors. “Mace came out of his doghouse, was walking up to (Johnson) to smell him. The officer stepped back out of the fence, pulled his weapon and shot that dog. That dog would not have come out of that fence. It’s an electric fence. They’re scared to death of it. The dog walked up to him wagging his tail.”

“The dogs smell the juice and stay at least two feet back from it,” Hammonds said. “Mace was 10 feet away when (Officer Johnson) shot him.”

Hammonds claims that after the shooting, Johnson said “I hate pit bulls.”

Bellamy and Suit told the Times-News that Johnson remarked he “didn’t like those damn pit bulls anyway.”

Johnson shot another pit bull in a separate incident less than two months later. According to KPD Sgt. David Moore, the dog had to be euthanized due to the extent of its injuries.

The shooting occurred on Aug. 6 as officers followed up on a complaint by loss prevention staff at the Wal-Mart on West Stone Drive.

Employees had reported concerns that a man was dealing drugs in the parking lot. Officers responded and followed the man’s car to 2425 Jennings Drive.

At the residence, they talked with a man identified as Stacy Gibson. According to police, Gibson said, “Let me go around here and put my dog up because he bites.”

Police say the dog broke its cable runner and cornered officers in a carport at the home. Johnson then fired one round at the animal.

No one at the Jennings Road residence was charged with any offense related to the original report of possible drug activity.

Previous stories:

Kingsport police, dog owner at odds over shooting of dog

TBI launches investigation into Kingsport police officer's shooting of pit bull

KPD officer under investigation by TBI for shooting pit bull shoots another

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