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‘Heartache is still here’: N.C. community still grieving after dog shot to death outside country store

Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 10:54 PM 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.

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CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - “Rocky” became the mascot of a small country store in Caldwell County.

His owner called him a “gentle giant” who loved everyone he met.

On Sunday, deputies said a man got out of his car and shot Rocky and then took off.

Rocky was found dead on the porch of the country store with multiple gunshot wounds.

Josh Hawley, 35, was identified as the culprit, and he later confessed to killing the dog, leaving a community, and a small store heartbroken.

Joshua Wayne Hawley
Joshua Wayne Hawley(Caldwell County Jail)

Hawley made his first court appearance Wednesday on a charge of one count of felony cruelty to animals.

But, that won’t bring their beloved dog back.

Bruce Gray, the owner of Betsey’s Country Store in Caldwell County, says it has been extra quiet about the store since the dog was shot.

“Every day is a different day and the heartache is still here,” said Erica Penley, Rocky’s owner.

‘Gentle giant’: Dog shot, killed outside store during suspected robbery in Caldwell County
‘Gentle giant’: Dog shot, killed outside store during suspected robbery in Caldwell County(WBTV)

The store has been closed since Sunday.

There have been no customers inside and no food on the grill.

Gray says it has been too difficult to stay open since the loss of their furry friend.

“Oh, it’s extremely quiet here, yes,” Gray said.

Gray told WBTV he was at the store when his beloved companion Rocky was shot and killed.

“It’s heart-rendering,” Gray said. “He’s like a kid and we don’t have a kid no more.”

Last Sunday, Rocky was on the back porch waiting to greet customers like he usually did.

Surveillance cameras captured what happened next.

A dark-colored van drove past, which caught the dog’s attention as he went around front to see who was there.

“Within two seconds, three shots. Pow, pow, pow,” said Penley.

Penley said Rocky ran back to the porch but died from his injuries.

The gunman left the scene.

But, word came down of an arrest.

Hawley had been charged in the case.

Detectives said Hawley admitted to shooting Rocky, but claimed the dog had attacked him.

“He died a horrible death,” Penley said.

Penley owned Rocky, and said despite the claim, she said there’s no way the dog attacked Hawley.

“Rocky was not barking, Rocky was not showing teeth,” Penley said. “Rocky was coming around the store as he always did to greet customers.”

News of what happened here got out quickly.

The store has been receiving hundreds of calls a day of condolences from people all around the country.

“The phone rings, everywhere from nine o’clock in the morning to eleven o’clock at night,” Gray said.

As for Rocky, he’s buried out in the front yard, right in front so he can still greet customers who come in the store.

It’s the people inside who are left to deal with what happened.

“You’ve got to let it turn to something else or it’ll eat you alive and I don’t want it to eat me alive,” said Gray.

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