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Traffic stop traumatizes family: Couple handcuffed, dog shot to death over lost wallet
| Saturday, January 4, 2003
Posted on 01/04/2003 1:21:52 AM PST by JohnHuang2
Losing your wallet in Cookeville, Tenn., can get you handcuffed on the side of the highway and your dog shot to death by police at least, that was the experience of a North Carolina family returning from a vacation in Nashville.
James Smoak apparently left his wallet on the roof of the family station wagon New Year's Day while getting gas prior to pulling onto Interstate 40, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.
He discovered it was missing after three police cars swarmed his vehicle in what appeared to be a traffic stop.
But this was no ordinary traffic stop.
According to Smoak, a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer broadcast orders over a bullhorn for him to toss the keys out of the car window, get out with his hands up and walk backwards to the rear of the car. Smoak obeyed and was subsequently ordered onto his knees and handcuffed at gunpoint. Officers similarly handcuffed his wife, Pamela, and their 17-year-old son with their guns drawn.
As the troopers were putting the family members inside the patrol car, one of the Smoak family bulldogs came out of the car and headed toward one of the Cookeville officers who were assisting the THP troopers.
"That officer had a flashlight on his shotgun, and the dog was going toward that light, and the officer shot him, just blew his head off," Pamela Smoak told the Herald-Citizen. "We had begged them to shut the car doors so our dogs wouldn't get out, [but] they didn't do that."
Cookeville Police Officer Eric Hall later defended his actions to the Herald-Citizen.
"A dog, I believe to be a pit-bull, jumped from the suspect vehicle, singled me out from the other officers, and charged toward me growling in an aggressive manner, Hall described.
"I yelled at the dog to 'get back' but it attempted to circle me to attack, so I felt that I had no other option but to protect myself. I fired once at the dog, instantly putting him down," he continued.
Following the slaying of the dog, it was some time before the family learned why they had been stopped. At one point, a state trooper told them they "matched the description" in a robbery that had occurred in Davidson County.
It was a while longer before someone in authority figured out that the officers had stopped and were holding the very family that someone in Davidson County had assumed had been robbed.
"Finally, they asked me my name and I told them my name, date of birth and other information, and they talked by radio to someone in Davidson County and finally realized that a mistake had been made," James Smoak said.
The 38-year-old said the officers then told them they were released and apologized.
"A lady in Davidson County had seen that wallet fly off our car and had seen money coming out of it and going all over the road, and somehow that became a felony and they made a felony stop, but no robbery or felony had happened," Pamela Smoak said.
"Here we are just a family on vacation, and we had to suffer this," James Smoak added.
Beth Womack, a THP spokesperson in Nashville, told the Herald-Citizen an internal affairs investigation is underway and that every effort will be made to "find out exactly what happened and why."
"As I understand it," she said, "a report was made in Davidson County to our officers that this car had been seen leaving at a high rate of speed and that a significant amount of money had come out of the car and someone became suspicious," she said.
An internal investigation is also underway at the Cookeville Police Department.
On Friday, Chief Bob Terry issued a statement stressing the department was called in as back-up by the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the officers' role was "secondary to what the THP termed as a 'felony' stop, a possible car-jacking."
"Unfortunately, during the THP's process of gaining control of the situation, a very rare thing occurred," Terry's statement continued. "The Smoaks had been traveling with family dogs, and one of them got loose. ... it clearly approached one of our officers in a threatening manner. Our officer first tried to call the dog down, but after it kept approaching aggressively and started to circle him, the officer took the only action he could to protect himself and gain control of the situation."
TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: copernicus3; donutwatch
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The week before Christmas, my brother was pulled over by a bunch of cops in North Carolina (Statesville) because he matched the description of a bank robber. After putting him through the ordeal of getting out with hands up, lay on the ground, and having his car searched, they did him the favor of arresting him for a suspended license (he just returned from a year-long Army tour in Korea).
And to you, mon ami. So good, to return to FR from a few months' sabbatical, and find you at your usual station, sourcing key stories for us all. Very best wishes for a prosperous 2003, By.
Very best wishes for a prosperous 2003
Why, thanks -- same to you and yours.
Opps.......you are free to go now.
Sex is like sports, or for that matter the Roman games of old, since it helps to keep the mind of the underling off of the subject of taxes.
John, I want to reserve judgement on the article because I recently dealt with a cop with a real attitude and I am trying to get rid of the thoughts and attitudes of that experience. If a seriously bad police force turns up they can be dealt with "American Graffiti" style.
The police were successful at their main objective, protecting themselves.
posted on 01/04/2003 2:53:18 AM PST
by per loin
John, my thoughts and feelings go so far beyond disgust and revulsion and anger over this story that I will not mention them, beyond saying that stories like this have no place in the America I revere.
I have a few links:
|Owner to pursue police in shooting of two dogs
Oregon man captures robber -- cops shoot his dog as a reward
AGR Online/ Letters
... Asheville police kill dog, no longer welcome. Editor, Asheville Global Report,.
On Friday, May 26, about 9:45 pm, during a truly amazing display of police power ...
BSL - United Kingdom - Media Articles and the DDA
... terrier as appeal is shelved - The Telegraph 28 June 1996 - Police kill dog with
a garden fork - The Telegraph 18 July 1996 - How pawprints can uncover the ...
... May, 09 2001, Owner of dog killed by police ponders action. May, 08 2001, Centreville
officer shoots puppy; 1-year-old Lab ran up to 2 officers talking to owner. ...
posted on 01/04/2003 3:05:09 AM PST
....the officers then told them they were released and apologized.
Well, they said they were sorry, so it's OK. Right?
I've been arrested on false charges by a racist cop who obviously didn't like the fact that I shared an Apt with a black friend. Nobody apologized to me.
I had to pay a freakin fine and move just to avoid future encounters with this racist cop.
posted on 01/04/2003 3:14:59 AM PST
We travel via SUV with a very large dog who is always kept behind a dog barrier. I believe it to be safer for the dog than an open interior. After reading this article I can believe it.
The news last night here in Memphis said it was a Pit Bull. Which given it's reputation for mauling folks to death, would scare any one. IF you call the police in Millington, you get NO less than 2 cars 2 officers each. Millington has about 9,000 population now since the Navy base went from a training station to an administration type base. So we have more than enough officers to do this.
posted on 01/04/2003 4:41:05 AM PST
To: *Donut watch
Seems to me that the owners of the dog should have controled the dog on command. This was not memtioned. This to me is a law suit in the making!
A dog, I believe to be a pit-bull, jumped from the suspect vehicle, singled me out from the other officers, and charged toward me growling in an aggressive manner, Hall described.
The family dog was a BULLDOG, not a Pit Bull!
One of our dogs is a Bulldog (think U. of Georgia's mascot "Uga"). They are the most people-loving, non-aggressive dogs and they don't look anything like Pit Bulls.
Our family joke is that our Bulldog will delightedly greet burglars at the door, slobber affectionately all over them, show them around and leave with them when they are finished.
A needless, senseless tragedy. My heart breaks for this family.
posted on 01/04/2003 5:02:35 AM PST
Cops love to confront law-abiding citizens... no risk.
Traffic tickets are good revenue if the perps look docile.
Give them a drunk to slam around and they love it.
I have no more respect for most of them than I do the hacks at motor vehicles.
State cops are the worst. They're not out there to protect you... they're out there to make money for the state!
posted on 01/04/2003 5:04:55 AM PST
It takes a certain attitude, bravodo, personality, to be a cop and make cop like decisions that escalate a situation far beyond reality. For this reason, all police forces must be brough under control of someone, or group without said bravado, attitude, personality. Disarmed would be a start. As true servants of the people, they can be at the mercy of those they stop rather than the other way around.
Can you imagine two unarmed policemen busting doors down, instead of politely knocking and presenting a warrant. The public has allowed far to much "progress in the name of law enforcement" and far too many mistakes by those they think are here for protection of the public, when in reality police protect themselves first, and the public if it suits or the situation presents itself.
The public is in need of more serious lessons in what happens when you give government the power to do what it finds unpleasant, and what it doesn't have the stomach to do, and then give them the ever increasing manpower, resources, and budget to do the job. Those dedicated individuals in the police line of work will continue to find plenty of "work", all of it at public expense and some of it not in the public interest.
posted on 01/04/2003 5:27:27 AM PST
"We had begged them to shut the car doors so our dogs wouldn't get out, [but] they didn't do that."
Personally, I hope they sue the state to the max. Big jury awards are the only thing that is going to bring these police forces back under control. Money is the only language that politicians and city and state officials understand. They don't give a hoot about the Constitution; but they do understand the bottom line.
To: fred flinch
""Seems to me that the owners of the dog should have controled the dog on command. This was not memtioned. ""
Seems to me that this dog saw his owners being handcuffed and 'kidnapped' and came out of the car to investigate.
I lost my wallet in Tennessee, by leaving it on the roof of my car at a rest stop. Didn't realize it until I stopped for gas in North Carolina. What a mess that caused at the time. Now I am glad that the wallet was not found by the Tennessee highway patrol!
posted on 01/04/2003 6:13:23 AM PST
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