‘Gentle giant’: Dog shot, killed outside store in Caldwell County

Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 12:44 AM EDT
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UPDATE: Below is the article as it originally appeared. Since then, new evidence has been released and provides more context to the shooting. For the most up-to-date information about this case, please click here.

According to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, a surveillance video was withheld by the owner of Betsey’s Old Country Store that showed the dog, Rocky, charged and lunged aggressively at Joshua Wayne Hawley at which point Hawley shot the dog.

The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office said store owner Bruce Morrison Gray had possession of the video and failed to turn that video over to investigators. Gray was arrested and charged with Felony Obstruction of Justice.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Friends and neighbors in a small community in Caldwell County were hurting Monday night, mourning the death of a beloved dog.

The dog’s final act may very well have saved the life of his owners.

“Why would somebody hurt that gentle giant? I don’t understand,” said Erica Penley, who owned “Rocky.”

The rural community of Collettsville is a place folks getaway to, nestled in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest.

One of the only ways to make your mark around here is to literally do it on the frame of Betsey’s Old Country Store.

And people like it that way.

Miles of gravel roads will get you back to nature, but there are things out there that can still find you here.

“I don’t understand why someone would want to kill that sweet dog.”

Bruce Gray has owned Betsey’s since anybody can remember.

A fixture of his store was Rocky, a loveable Rottweiler who quickly became the store’s mascot.

Rocky spent most of his time greeting customers as they came in and out of the store.

Penley was at the store Sunday afternoon when an unknown van drove up.

“It looked like the man was going to rob the store, and my dog bolted toward him,” said Penley.

Surveillance cameras captured what happened next.

A darker-colored van pulled up attracting the dog’s attention.

The van could be seen as it continued around the other side of the building. That’s when Rocky went to investigate.

Footage shows the dog coming around the corner and walking toward the front of the store.

That’s when the shooting happened.

“We heard three gunshots in rapid succession,” said Gray.

At that point, Rocky can be seen running toward the back wounded. He reached the porch crying out for help.

“And it was almost like he said, ‘Mama come on and help me,’” Penley said. “He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what pain is. He probably didn’t understand what was going on. He probably didn’t understand he’d been shot.”

Rocky died on the porch from his wounds. The gunman drove off, leaving behind him a wake of pain and sadness.

“I don’t understand. I’ll never understand. I’ll never understand this one,” Penley said.

They buried Rocky on the property, out of the pain that was inflicted on him.

All that’s left now is the pain his owners are left with, and the knowledge that if it wasn’t for his dog, the same thing might have happened to someone inside.

“It may have saved my life,” said Gray.

The community has pulled together and is offering a reward of $1,000 for any information that leads to an arrest.

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