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Complaints filed after police shoot family dog

Thursday, January 9, 2003

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- A family has filed multiple complaints after police mistakenly pulled them over as robbery suspects, then shot and killed their dog as it bounded from the car.

A tape released by authorities Wednesday documents the incident, which began when a Tennessee state trooper and three Cookeville police cars pulled over James Smoak and his family as they drove home Jan. 1 from a vacation.

The trooper suspected the Smoaks' dark green station wagon was connected to a robbery, Tennessee Highway Patrol officials said.

Troopers ordered the family out of the car, and the video shows James and Pamela Smoak and their 17-year-old son, Brandon, obeying. They came out with their hands up, got down and were handcuffed.

About a minute after the traffic stop, one of the dogs -- a bulldog-boxer mix named Patton -- jumped from the car and raced toward Cookeville police officer Eric Hall, who was holding a shotgun. The tape shows that Hall stepped back and fired just before Patton reached him.

The dog appeared to be wagging its tail as it ran toward the officer, the tape shows. Patton died from the shotgun blast.

Police had suspected the Smoaks based on a report of money flying from their car as it sped down Interstate 40. They later discovered Smoak had simply left his wallet on the car while pumping gas.

Smoak, of Saluda, N.C., declined comment Wednesday. He said he is pursuing legal action and has been advised not to discuss the case. The Smoaks have filed complaints with all agencies involved in the stop.

Hall, the officer who shot the dog, has contended he had no choice when the animal charged him.

He has been reassigned to administrative duties pending an independent review. But the Cookeville Police Department's internal investigation found that Hall did not use excessive force.


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