Gastonia, NC — Joshua Rohrer is an honorably discharged Army veteran who, like tens of thousands of other veterans, is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving in Afghanistan. As a result of his illness, Rohrer hasn't been able to hold down a job and is homeless. As panhandling is illegal in the city, Rohrer simply sits on the street and waves to folks as they walk by — which ended in October of last year with a violent encounter with police. Three months after his brutal attack, Rohrer tried to prove his innocence by having the body camera released but police blocked it.
Why? " Its "release may harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person," among other things.
In January, Superior Court Judge Stephan Furtrell denied the release of the body camera footage citing the following reasons.
- The recording contains information that is otherwise confidential or exempt from disclosure or release under state or federal law.
- Release would reveal information regarding a person that is of a highly sensitive personal nature.
- Release may harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person.
- Release would create a series threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice.
- Confidentiality is necessary to protect either an active or inactive internal or criminal investigation or potential internal or criminal investigation.
After fighting for more than 9 months, Rohrer has finally made some headway and last week, the body camera was finally released — and it certainly harms the reputation of the sadistic officers involved. All of the bogus charges against him were also thrown out.
On October 13, 2021, Rohrer was doing what he normally did every day and was sitting at the intersection of Cox Road and Gaston Mall Drive around 6:30 p.m. with his dog. When a "concerned citizen" drove by and noticed Rohrer and his dog, she called police to report the homeless veteran for begging for money, and "using his service dog for sympathy."
"Is it legal for these adults to be standing on the intersection with a dog asking for money?" the caller asked, according to the recently released phone records. The woman, who can only be described as a "Karen," was hell bent on using police force to implement her will.
A homeless veteran who was chewed up and spit out by the system he dedicated his life to support, was so offensive to the caller that she demanded police remove him.
"There has got to be something somebody can do about this," the caller said. "This is bullcrap that they're using this poor animal!"
"How are they using the dog to get money?" the dispatcher asked.
"Okay, well that’s putting two and two together," the caller responded. "They’re using this dog to make people feel sorry for them to give them money."
The dog was not being exploited at all by Rohrer. The dog, Sunshine, was Rohrer's service animal to help him cope with his PTSD. However, thanks to the caller, who used police as a weapon against Rohrer, Sunshine is now dead.
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Sunshine was placed with Rohrer’s Veterans Affairs advocate, who was taking care of her while Rohrer was in jail, but she got loose and got hit by a car.
The "see something, say something" citizen got her wishes after calling 911 to report Rohrer and police were dispatched to arrest him. As the newly released body camera footage shows, police violently assaulted Rohrer and his dog Sunshine.
Gastonia police Officer Cierra Brooks was first on the scene and began harassing Rohrer, accusing him of panhandling.
In the video, Rohrer tells Brooks he is not asking for money. She tells him she is going to write him a citation for panhandling and Rohrer complies with everything she is saying.
Officer Maurice Taylor then responds as backup to Brooks and demands Rohrer's ID. When Rohrer provides his VA ID — which is a legal form of identification — Taylor escalates to violence and attacks Rohrer.
During the arrest, Taylor claimed Rohrer's service dog Sunshine bit the officer's boot. Shortly after, the dog pulled out the taser and used it on the dog.
In the footage released Thursday, there is no video of the dog biting Officer Taylor. However, Taylor can be heard telling a supervisor the dog bit his boot but the boot was not pierced.
"We're out here screaming, 'Don't shoot the dog! Don't shoot the dog!' a witness told reporters.
After she was tasered, Sunshine took off running and hid in a nearby store as Rohrer begged cops to let him find her. He would never see her again.
“I hope that officers will learn to de-escalate and approach situations differently because this all could have been avoided if they would have just listened to me," Rohrer said after the video was released last week.
Despite the charges being dropped, the department still claims Rohrer was in violation of the law.
"The city is pleased that the resolution of Mr. Rohrer’s charges includes his participation in Catawba County’s Veteran Treatment Court where he can receive services specifically tailored to his needs,” the department said in a statement. “The City of Gastonia Police Department’s internal review of this incident was conducted pursuant to established policy."
According to local media, Taylor resigned in February, and Brooks is still with the department.