Cruelty trial: Jury to decide if man who shot dog was in fear

Cruelty trial: Jury to decide if man who shot dog was in fear

May 11th, 2011 by Todd South in News

Roger Dale Beason takes the stand in his own behalf Tuesday during his trial in Judge Don Poole's courtroom on charges of aggravated cruelty to animals. Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Roger Dale Beason takes the stand in his...

Roger Dale Beason shot a dog in the snout with an arrow.

The question a jury has to answer today is if he had a reason to shoot it.

The 36-year-old Whitwell, Tenn., man faces an aggravated cruelty to animals charge in Hamilton County Criminal Court. During the first day of his trial Tuesday, witnesses for Assistant District Attorney Lance Pope and Assistant Public Defender Erinn O'Leary testified that the dog was both friendly and aggressive.

The trial resumes today, and each attorney may have more evidence to present. But after Beason testified on his own behalf Tuesday, the case likely will reach the jury this morning.

The stray, black female German shepherd mix that looked as though she'd recently had pups roamed around the JIT Steel Service parking lots and surrounding businesses in late August and through September 2009.

She'd take food scraps left in bowls or pieces of a sandwich from the hand of Greenlife grocery store worker Amber Clarkson and JIT Chemical employee William Hicks Jr., each testified.

Both said the dog never growled or threatened them in the weeks before Beason shot it on Sept. 25, 2009.

But workers at JIT Steel Service said the dog roamed the lots, hiding beneath cars with a male dog. Some described the animal as looking feral, almost like a coyote.

Lois Cothran, a truck driver for the steel company, described a fearful early morning encounter with both dogs.

"You could tell they were very hungry," she testified. "It wasn't a friendly looking puppy."

Early one morning before McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Service officers came and caught the male dog, Cothran came to work while it still was dark. Another employee was in the lot changing his shoes nearby as she worked.

"They came out from the shadows, growling, barking," she said. The employee shooed the male dog away, but Cothran said the female dog stayed in the shadows, growling.

She told her supervisors she wouldn't be alone in the lot anymore until the dogs were removed.

A short while later the Mc-Kamey officers caught the male dog, but the female escaped.

The dog didn't have a name that anyone knew.

Beason testified that he'd seen the dogs chasing cars out of the lot, but avoided them completely. On the day he shot the dog he'd brought his camouflaged compound bow and arrows in his two-door extended cab Ford F-150 pickup truck to try and sell to a co-worker.

When he left at the end of his shift that afternoon the lot was nearly empty. He got to his vehicle and heard growling.

Beason testified that he "panicked" and ran around to the passenger side of the truck where he saw his bow in the front seat, the arrows laying on the floor.

He looked but didn't see the dog.

Grabbing the bow, he pushed an arrow into the string, half drew as he turned from inside the truck and saw the dog near the front end of the truck and, without aiming, fired.

The arrow hurtled a distance of between 15 and 20 feet, he estimated, and plunged into the animal's snout.

Dr. Kim Barlowe, a veterinarian at Regional Institute for Veterinary Emergencies and Referrals, saw the dog a short while later. The dog ran down Manufacturer's Road and into Coolidge Park near Girls Preparatory School where McKamey officer Matt Agnew captured it.

Barlowe testified that the arrow had entered the dog's snout, pierced the soft palate and esophagus, lodging the four-blade razor-sharp tip near its spine.

She believed the dog was in shock but acted docile while being transported and examined.

The damage was too severe and the dog was euthanized.

Agnew and Chattanooga police Officer Daniel Russell both testified that when they interviewed Beason he did not say he felt threatened and that the dog was stationary when shot.

Beason testified that he told everyone he talked with after shooting the dog that he was in fear.

"I told them I was scared, the dog came at me and I was terrified," he said. "I wouldn't have just shot the dog for no reason, that's not me."