Mount Carmel officer suspended for refusing to shoot skunk that bit child

Jeff Bobo • Sep 29, 2015 at 9:00 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel Police Department Officer David Dean received a three day suspension earlier this month for refusing to shoot a skunk that had bitten a child so it could be tested for rabies.

Dean reportedly violated departmental policy when he gave his duty weapon to fire Chief Ryan Christian, who fired three shoots to kill the skunk.

The incident occurred July 27 between 11 a.m. and noon, and an internal investigation was conducted by Mount Carmel Police Department Assistant Chief Phillip Robinette.

On Sept. 16 MCPD Chief Jeff Jackson issued a letter notifying Dean he was suspended for three days without pay and placed on probation for six months.

It was the second time this year that Dean has been suspended by Jackson.

Dean received a one day suspension without pay in June for making a claim of inappropriate behavior against a fellow officer which was later proven to be false after video surveillance footage inside the police station was reviewed.

As for the July 27 incident, sometime after 11 a.m. animal control officer Eddie Seabolt received a walk-in complaint at the municipal animal shelter from a woman whose 6-year-old daughter had been bitten by a skunk at their residence on the 700th block of Hammond Avenue.

The child was reportedly taken to receive medical attention, and Seabolt responded to the residence where he located what was determined to be an injured baby skunk.

Mount Carmel prohibits its animal control officer from euthanizing animals. Dean responded to the residence.

Christian also responded to the residence to assist.

“Officer Seabolt stated once Patrolman Dean arrived on the scene he told him he needed for him to kill the injured skunk because it had bitten a child and the head had to be sent off and be checked for rabies,” Robinette stated in his report. “(Seabolt) stated Patrolman Dean stated he couldn’t kill an animal and he refused to kill the animal, knowing it had bitten a child.”

Dean gave a written statement in which he described the baby skunk as being injured and appearing as if it had either been hit by a vehicle or attacked by another animal.

According to his own statement Dean told Seabolt, “It’s hard for me to shoot an animal unless it’s trying to eat me because it’s here for a purpose and really hard to shoot an animal when it’s injured.”

Christian reportedly offered to shoot the skunk, but he hadn’t brought a gun with him.

“At this time I removed my service weapon from my holster,” Dean said in his written statement. “I stood and looked at the injured baby skunk. Chief Christian stated he would put the skunk down. Mr. Christian took my service weapon and shot the baby skunk. Officer Seabolt then walked over to the skunk and placed it into a black trash bag, and transported the baby skunk (to the hospital.)”

Fortunately for the child, the skunk wasn’t rabid.

Robinette stated in his investigative report that Christian and Seabolt hold some responsibility for the incident for failing to report to Dean’s supervisor that he refused to shoot the skunk.

Robinette added however, that it was Dean’s responsibility to kill the skunk.

“The department policy authorizes police officers, not the fire chief or animal control officer, to carry out the killing of animals when necessary,” Robinette added. “Patrolman Dean failed to carry out his duty, and he released his duty weapon to someone who is not his supervisor or partner, so I find him at fault on those two grounds.”

Robinette recommended disciplinary action ranging from a minimum of a written reprimand to a maximum of three days suspension without pay.

In a Sept. 16 letter to Dean, MCPD Chief Jeff Jackson indicated he was imposing the three day suspension.

“You failed to perform your duty as an officer for the Mount Carmel Police Department by refusing to put down an injured skunk that had bitten a small child, and you put the town in a liable situation by giving your duty weapon to an unauthorized person who discharged the weapon three times to accomplish the task,” Jackson stated in the letter. “All turned out well in this instance, however actions of this nature will not be tolerated in the future.”

Dean was hired by Mayor Larry Frost in January of 2013, only days after being fired from the Bean Station Police Department.

Bean Station Mayor Terry Wolfe told the Times-News he fired David Dean “for the betterment of the police department.”

Prior to being elected mayor of Bean Station, Wolfe retired from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, where he’d served as special agent in charge of criminal investigations for the eastern half of the state.

Wolfe wouldn’t give specific reasons for firing Dean. He told the Times-News in 2013, “He (David Dean) was not doing what I thought he should do as a police officer for my community. He was fired for the betterment of the department.”

In 2007, Jackson terminated David Dean from the MCPD for failure to complete his in-service training on time, which is a requirement of annual post training.

Prior to Dean’s 2007 termination, however, Jackson had suspended Dean from the MCPD for allegedly padding his time card.

Aside from suspending Dean, Jackson required Dean to pay more than $600 in restitution to the city.

After leaving the MCPD in 2007, David Dean worked for and resigned from the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and Northeast State Community College campus security.

Robinette served as Bean Station police chief prior to coming Mount Carmel in 2013, and was Dean’s supervisors in Bean Station as well.                

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