Reward up to $10,000 for any information on ‘sick individual’ who shot horses
By Jessie Burchette
ROCKWELL ó George Stirewalt’s horses are recovering from being shot a point blank range, but the former deputy is both angry and determined to find the shooter.
Stirewalt, who initially offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the shooter, now says he will go to $10,000 ó if that’s what it takes.
And Stirewalt is concerned for the safety of both his horses and his family. He figures that anybody who is mean enough to sneak into a barn at night and shoot two horses in the head could easily turn the gun on people.
“If they’ll shoot an animal in a stall, they’ll shoot you,” Stirewalt said.
“It would take a sick individual to shoot one horse, to stand there and watch what the shot did and and then do it again to another one,” Montie Cline, Stirewalt’s daughter, said Wednesday afternoon.
Stirewalt, a retired grading contractor, is taking no chances. He’s got his guns loaded and ready if the shooter decides on a return visit.
The Sirewalt and Cline homes, barn and pasture are on Butterfly Lane off Old Beatty Ford Road, a short distance east of Fox’s Grocery.
In the dark of night, the shooter worked his way through the woods, near his daughter’s house, to the barn around 11:30 p.m. Friday.
She heard the shots and immediately realized they were fired close to the barn. Family members rushed to check, finding Whittie and Sugar Plum, each shot below the right eye, bleeding, and in obvious pain.
“You could tell they were hurting really bad, they were trying to rub their head against the wall,” Stirewalt said.
The horses ó Whittie, a 24-year-old harness racing horse adopted through the Standardbred Retirement Foundation and Sugar Plum, a 7-year-old quarter horse ó were on the verge of going into shock.
Stirewalt called South Ridge Veterinary Hospital in Kannapolis to get a vet to the scene to administer aid.
The family transported the horses to the clinic Saturday morning. X-rays showed the small caliber bullets ó believed to be .22 ó had shattered on impact with the bone.
The vets advised there was no need for surgery, but provided medicine to ease the pain and help with the healing.
The medical bill is expected to run as much as $4,000.
The horse’s skin has almost grown over the entry wound. Whittie still has blood draining from a sinus cavity.
Both horses are doing much better, but they are much more skittish these days.
Normally, they come running to the gate when Cline approaches with a bridle. Now they stay toward the back of the barn.
This is the time of year when Stirewalt and his family enjoy long rides either on horseback or in a buggy.
“We use to ride on the road (Old Beatty Ford) but it’s like an interstate now,” he said, remembering years ago when he worked as a deputy sheriff for the late Sheriff John Stirewalt.
Many nights when he got off duty, he’d get on a horse and ride for miles along the country roads by moonlight.
He knows those days are gone.
And he’s concerned that a fuss with neighbors over shooting toward the pasture may have led to the attack on the horses.
Earlier in the week, he confronted neighbors who were shooting a .22 rifle toward the pasture, with bullets popping on the ground around the horses.
He is encouraged that an investigator with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office is now working the case.
Investigators have a clue that may help. The shooter apparently lost some video game tokens near the barn, which may help narrow the search.
The family has received a lot of calls of support.
The only worrisome call came from the Standardbred Foundation, concerned that the adopted horse may not be safe.
Stirewalt and his family are determined that Whittie, Sugar Plum and their other three horses will be safe.
Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call Investigator Kent Collins at 704-216-8700.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.