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Family says police killed dog for no reason

Smoaks say they were thrown on ground, handcuffed

Pamela and James Smoak appeared on CNN's
Pamela and James Smoak appeared on CNN's "Connie Chung Tonight."

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Affiliate WHNS has the story of the Smoak family whose dog was shot by police officers in Tennessee during a mistaken stop. (January 8)
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GREENVILLE, South Carolina (CNN) -- A family maintains their dog was shot to death by police after they were mistakenly pulled over and handcuffed and they might take legal action.

James and Pamela Smoak and their 17-year-old son Brandon said they were returning from Tennessee to their South Carolina home on New Year's Day.

While stopping for gas in Tennessee, James Smoak accidentally left his wallet on the roof of the car. As they drove away the wallet flew off the car and nearby motorists suspected the Smoaks had committed a robbery.

Police followed the family's car and pulled them over on Interstate 40 in eastern Tennessee.

James Smoak said he noticed the police cruiser and its blue lights behind him, so he pulled over and reached for his wallet with the driver's license inside. It was then that he realized he didn't have any identification.

"So I'm expecting the officer to come to my window, but a blaring light comes on and he starts blaring orders over a P.A. system for all the passengers in the car to get out with their hands in the air," he told CNN's "Connie Chung Tonight." "We comply completely."

The officer put Smoak on the ground and handcuffed him, placed him in the back of the patrol car, and then did the same with his wife and son.

But the family still had their two dogs inside the car, which was parked with its doors open. Pamela and Brandon said they pleaded with the officers to close the doors so their dogs -- one which was named Patton -- would not escape.

"After about a minute of [the officers] just standing there ignoring us," Pamela Smoak said, "I saw Patton -- and so did Brandon -- come towards the door, and he jumped out of the car."

"The whole time that Patton was running, my son and I were screaming, 'Please let us get him, please, he's not going to do anything,'" Pamela Smoak said.

"And then he just shot him. As soon as he barked twice, [the officer] shot him right in the head with us just screaming at him. I couldn't believe it."

The Smoaks' dog Patton is buried on the family's property in South Carolina.
The Smoaks' dog Patton is buried on the family's property in South Carolina.

The officer who shot the dog wrote in his report that he feared the dog would bite him.

"I yelled at the dog to get back, but it attempted to circle me to attack, so I felt that I had no option but to protect myself," the officer wrote.

Brandon said he often used a flashlight to play with Patton at home, so the dog may have simply barked at the light. "He's the gentlest dog that I've ever been around. He's like Sooby Doo. He wasn't mean at all."

Pamela Smoak said the officers never apologized to her.

A representative of police in Cookeville, Tennessee, told CNN the department is "really, really sorry" the Smoaks' dog was killed, and that it would have more to say Wednesday.

The Tennessee Department of Safety said an internal investigation was under way and that the department expected to release an official statement Wednesday. The department also said it planned to release police video of the incident.

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