Justice for Merlin: Family wants answers after police used Taser on tethered dog

June 21, 2013

Rebecka Brown is the owner of a one-year-old black lab/boxer mix named Merlin who was Tasered by a Carteret County, NC Sheriff’s Office deputy on June 5. She, her husband and their three children are now seeking answers as to why a Taser was used on a dog attached to a 10-foot lead.

The incident began on June 5 when Detective Joey Cooper came to the home to serve a warrant on Rebecka’s husband for failure to appear in court in relation to a hunting ticket he had received. Her husband had hunted on the property without the proper kind of permit and had corrected the problem the day the ticket was issued, forgetting he had a court date about it.

Detective Cooper left a business card stuck in her dog asking her to call him. When Rebecka returned home from work and found the card, she called right away to see what had happened while she was away.
As it turns out, Cooper used a Taser on Merlin because the dog “attacked” him.

Detective Cooper told Rebecka that Merlin was fine because only one prong of the Taser struck him. From Cooper’s comments, Rebecka believed her dog to be uninjured. When she went to check on him, Merlin wouldn’t let her come close. It took several attempts for Merlin to allow the Taser prong to be removed.

It was while she and a friend were removing the prong that Rebecka noticed Merlin’s eyeball had been ripped open. They also noticed that judging by the direction of the Taser prong, Merlin had been shot as he was retreating from the officer.

Rebecka immediately called Cooper back and got his voice mail. She then called the Cartaret Sheriff’s Office, and officer’s arrived at the home an hour later to investigate. As soon as Merlin saw the deputies he began to shake. Then he began to growl. It was clear he was reacting to the uniform. It was someone in a uniform just like this who had injured him.

Rebecka believes Merlin was struck with either a flashlight or a nightstick. She’s determined to get answers as to why her dog posed such a threat when it was in its own yard, secured to a lead.

She has also learned how frustrating the system can be for dog owner’s seeking answers when their family member is injured or killed by police. Fjrst she contacted the Sheriff’s Department and was turned away. Then she went to a magistrate to file charges for animal cruelty. Rebecka was told officers couldn’t be charged with animals cruelty(they can be, and several have faced charges over the past year). Her next stop was a visit to the district attorney, who referred her to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).

After continuing to pressure the District Attorney’s office, D.A. Scott Thomas eventually began an internal investigation into the incident. On June 19 Sheriff Asa Buck and an internal affairs officer paid a visit to Rebecka’s home to inform her that Detective Cooper was justified in his use of his Taser. Not only would he not be charged with animal cruelty, it was determined the officer had a right to be at the home, and he had a right to defend himself.

Police say it was just an unfortunate incident and the police didn’t come to the home with the intent to harm Merlin. They’ve instructed Rebecka to contact them when Merlin is done with his vet visits and they may even pay the bill.

While this case has had a happier ending than most, with the officer using his Taser instead of shooting Merlin dead, the whole incident is very upsetting. In an interview with Indie Register, Rebecka stated

“I honestly don’t know how I feel about all this. I’m angry that my dog was hurt. I’m very angry that my dog will never regain full sight in that eye. I’m hurt that my children are affected by this to the point that they tell me they are afraid of cops. I’m angry that the use of Tasers on animals is endorsed by our county. The county considers this matter closed. I’ve never known the sheriff to be anything but honorable. I am so confused and hurt.”

An online petition has been started and can be found here.http://justiceformerlin.weebly.com/Rebecka has photos of Merlins back showing the prong entered as he was retreating. She also has photos showing the damage to Merlins eye.

This is one case we will likely be hearing more of in the news. Chances are it will be picked up by an attorney, since it’s just plain wrong to shoot a retreating dog who is tethered in his own yard. Not to mention the injury received to Merlins eye when he was struck.

Rebecka has stated on her website dedicated to Merlin

“Merlin has had several visits to the vet’s office to and was referred to a specialist to repair the damage to his eye. We have already been informed he will never regain full vision in his damaged eye and there may be a possibility it will have to be removed. We are seeking for legal actions to be taken against the officer that committed this heinous act to this poor dog.”

To stay updated on Merlin and his family, they now have a Facebook page at Justice for Merlin.

Rebecka describes the brutal attack on her dog best on Merlin’s Facebook page.

“The emotional damage to my family stretches much further than some hardships over a vet bill. My children, the kids that I taught to respect and trust law enforcement, are sad and scared.”

Readers, what do you think of this case? It’s not true that a police officer can’t be charged with animal cruelty. Do you think there’s enough evidence in this case to go to trial? Dog owners of Carteret County beware, as Detective Cooper was cleared on any wrong-doing and is still on the job.





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