PRESS RELEASE – for immediate release
January 23, 2018
(distributed through national and local media outlets)
Last week, on January 16 at a little after 8:30 pm, a beloved family member, a Caucasian Shepherd named Wakoda, was shot four times in his own backyard by his next door neighbor, Clayton Police Captain James Herring. Maya Asterilla, Wakoda’s guardian, was home at the time. Another of Wakoda’s guardians, Zebulon Moore, arrived home to find his nearly-lifeless companion animal and it was he who advised Ms. Asterilla of the situation. When police noticed Maya come to the window to investigate, they finally decided to knock on her door. Contrary to police reports, no one had called her or come to the home until after 9 pm. Three officers from the Benson Police Department responded to a call from the off-duty captain. They promptly wrote up an investigation report, fabricating some details and ignoring others, and filed the document with a final notation, “case closed.” The good ole boy network was alive and well in North Carolina that night.
According to the above-referenced police report, Wakoda was snarling, growling, and acting aggressively. He “charged” at Mr. Herring through a fence separating the neighbors’ properties, at which point the officer shot the Caucasian Shepherd four times, allegedly in fear for his own safety and that of his children. However, evidence published on Saturday demonstrates that none of Wakoda’s blood can be seen at the spot where Herring claims the shooting took place.
All of the pictures indicate that Wakoda was shot in his own backyard. He bled only on his own property and the trail left by the mortally-wounded dog suggests that he attempted to run back to his home as Herring kept shooting. There is not a single drop of blood evident anywhere on Herring’s property. There is no dispute that a damaged fence fell that night. Further, if Wakoda presented any threat whatsoever, a single shot fired in the air would have neutralized it immediately. The police claim that a video exists which shows the dog acting menacing and charging through the fence at Herring at which point he reached for his gun. However, the Benson Police Department is refusing to release this video to the family. Therefore, Eleventh Hour for Animals filed a state-level open records request seeking to secure a copy of this public document.
It is extremely troubling that on the evening in question, when Mr. Moore suggested to the police that they were lying and covering up for their brother-in-blue, their own police report demonstrates that their response was to threaten to take action against him. This tends to suggest that the police felt they could act with impunity and, if a mere civilian dare question them, there would be consequences. Ms. Asterilla promptly filed a complaint with the Benson Police Department the following day. The chief of police advised her that he would investigate whether the officers falsified information, but suggested the result of his investigation would bring her no comfort. The outrageous campaign of intimidation against the victimized family by the responding officers speaks for itself; and the demeanor of the Benson Police Chief tends to establish that we cannot trust this agency to police themselves.
It’s been well established that we live in a society where poorly-trained police gun down people of color in epidemic numbers. And we all need to understand that no one is safe if our public servants are allowed to dispense lethal force with impunity. We like to believe we are an evolved people, but we are not. In a fair world, no living being would be judged because of the arbitrary body in which they were born. We tend to acknowledge that it is irrelevant whether an individual was born into a male or female, brown or white body — we should all enjoy certain inalienable rights. Further, whether an individual was born into a human or nonhuman body is equally arbitrary — it’s called speciesism and society is only first beginning to awaken to this form of bigotry. If our police officers are allowed to simply murder a dog if they get a little jumpy, then it stands to reason that if this white Southern officer were intimidated by a large black man in the line of duty, his latent racism might evoke the same lethal force that his overt speciesism unleashed on Wakoda. Eleventh Hour for Animals filed a second open records request to secure information about any other shootings or disciplinary actions related to Police Officer James Herring. A second request to investigate Herring’s history as a public servant was filed with the Clayton Police Department.
Under the guidance of Kate Riviello, founder of No-Kill New York (the largest group advocating for no-kill shelters in that state) and an expert in companion animal law, Ms. Asterilla delivered her beloved dog’s remains on Sunday night to begin a formal necropsy. This procedure will establish the grounds for further legal action against James Herring as Ms. Asterilla’s and Ms. Riviello’s consultations progress. A fund has been established to raise the $335 the family needs to cover this expense.
Additionally, a petition was started over the weekend to compel Susan Doyle, the Johnson County District Attorney, to reopen this case, formally investigate the murder of Wakoda in his own backyard as well as to investigate the responding officers’ actions and their attempt to cover-up the circumstances of this fatal police shooting. It has over 700 signatures so far and we will continue to pursue every available avenue to hold all police involved responsible and demand that criminal charges be pursued.
How You Can Help
1) Please sign & share THIS PETITION.
2) Please donate to THIS FUND and help the family fight for justice for their beloved family member.
Eleventh Hour for Animals