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Roanoke Rapids Lawman Under Fire for Shooting Dog

A local college student says a police officer overreacted when he shot the student's 14-month-old dog multiple times, killing him.

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A local college student said a police officer overreacted when he shot the student's 14-month-old dog multiple times, killing him.

Brandon Cooke said he’s furious about what happened to his boxer, Tito, while he was home on winter break from Appalachian State University.

“They shot my dog six times and killed my dog,” Cooke said.

Speaking to WRAL by phone from his dorm room, Cooke said his brother let Tito out on Jan. 4 and forgot to bring him back inside. Shortly afterward, a neighbor called Roanoke Rapids police to complain that the dog was chasing him.

A police officer and an animal control officer went to the Cooke home. They said the dog charged toward them.

“The only choice he felt to prevent this dog from attacking the animal control officer was to discharge his weapon,” said Roanoke Rapids Police Chief Greg Lawson. A Roanoke Rapids town ordinance says it is illegal to let a dog roam without a leash.

Cooke told WRAL that he disagrees with Lawson’s assessment.

“He could have fired a shot at the ground, fired a shot in the air, some other type of measure (instead of) using the excessive force of firing six rounds at my dog,” he said

Lawson said that the lawman wouldn’t have shot Tito unless he had no other options.

“It bothers us,” he said. “We don't want to have to take an animal’s life.”

Police officials said this wasn't their first experience with Cooke's dog. Lawson said his officers responded to at least two earlier complaints about Tito acting aggressively or charging at people walking in Cooke’s neighborhood.

Cooke, who had raised Tito since he was a puppy, said authorities never warned him about any past complaints.

“I want to see these procedures fairly enforced,” he said. “I want the officer who did this to be reprimanded.”

However, Lawson told WRAL that he doesn’t believe any punishment is in order for the officer.

“The officer, in our mindset, was justified in that he felt the dog was going to attack,” Lawson said.

Cooke said he'll fight for more answers in honor of his best friend.