Some question what led to deputy shooting dog

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 11, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
CHINA GROVE — Marie Lowery recently lost a member of her family: Buddy, the 87-year-old’s Newfoundland-Labrador mix, who was shot by a sheriff’s deputy.
Billy Basinger, a Rowan County Sheriff’s deputy, was searching for a suspect thought to have been involved in a break-in. His K-9, Luke, also was there.
An incident report said Buddy, a 100-pound dog, growled and lunged for Basinger’s K-9.
The deputy shot Buddy multiple times.
Melvin Sherrill, who helped his aunt, Marie, take care of Buddy, disagrees with the deputy’s accounts of the incident.
Melvin said he and some friends were drinking outdoors in front of his Harry Street home when two China Grove Police Officers that he knew came by, spoke and petted Buddy, who was friendly toward them.
Not long after, he said Basinger approached with his K-9 and said they were looking for a woman suspected of stealing a television. The deputy had a flashlight and walked across Sherrill’s driveway and into the woods with Luke.
It was dark, Sherrill recalled, about 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. and the officer came out of the woods shining the flashlight.
It was that light that attracted Buddy, Sherrill said.
He said Buddy didn’t even notice the other dog. Sherrill ran after Buddy, calling his name the whole time.
About 20 feet from his property line, Sherrill heard Buddy growl. The next moment, Buddy was dead.
“I’m calling him and then pow. He shot my dog,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill tried to approach, but the deputy told him if he did, he’d be arrested.
He said Buddy didn’t lunge for the officer or the other dog.
“I did not see that at all,” Sherrill said.
He said Buddy may have growled, but that was it.
“Everybody in this community knows Buddy. He’s been neutered. He does not roam. He is not a vicious dog,” Sherrill said.
He called Buddy a 105- pound lap dog who would walk his daughter to the bus and wait for her after school.
He said when his aunt heard the shots, she ran outside. “She was hysterical,” he said.
Sherrill said he also takes issue with a department report that said his daughter told law enforcement Buddy had a problem with German shepherds.
“My daughter wasn’t even here,” Sherrill said.
The 13-year-old was on a field trip in Tennessee at the time of the incident.
Sherrill said he wants something to be done, he’s just not sure what. He’d like a formal apology from Basinger.
“I don’t know. I just want people to know to protect your animals — protect them from the protectors,” Sherrill said.
He said his family has tried to file a complaint with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, but have not been successful.
His wife, Paula, has attempted to make inquiries, but “every time she calls, she’s put on hold,” he said.
Sherrill said Buddy would either spend time at his house, sometimes outdoors or at his aunt’s home.
Marie Lowery’s brother, Joseph Luckey, said his sister is still upset over the death of her dog. “She has not been eating,” he said.
Luckey said the China Grove officers knew Buddy, and if they believed he was vicious, they would have asked that he be put up.
Luckey was in his bedroom when he heard Buddy growl — then he heard a gunshot.
“He didn’t have to kill him,” Luckey said.
He did say Basinger apologized to his sister.
Luckey said he feels like law enforcement members are trying to justify the shooting by saying Buddy was aggressive.
According to a Sheriff’s Office report, the officer’s shooting was justified. Basinger completed a use of force report that was reviewed by a supervisor and eventually the sheriff.
“In this case, Deputy Basinger was found to be justified in the use of his weapon to stop the action of the threat, in this case, the hostile civilian K-9 that was not being properly restrained by its owner,” said Capt John Sifford reading from the report.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.