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‘Just smile’: Gastonia community rallies behind homeless veteran after service dog found dead

Visitors say homeless veteran Joshua Rohrer always smiles, waves and wouldn’t even ask for money
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 10:47 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A community came together to show support to a friendly face seen walking around Gastonia.

Visitors say homeless veteran Joshua Rohrer always smiles, waves and wouldn’t even ask for money.

“He wasn’t doing anything wrong,” said Jordan Huxhold. “He wasn’t begging for money. He never came up to a car until you would give him money. He was just happy-go-lucky, smiling and waving at people. That was a joy for him.”

Rohrer lost his best friend - his dog Sunshine - who was found dead last week.

Dozens of people lined up along Gaston Mall Drive to honor Sunshine, the beloved community dog.

Sunshine died days after Rohrer was arrested for panhandling and resisting arrest.

Rohrer said he wasn’t begging for food or money, He said he complied with officers but was slammed onto the police car.

‘Just smile’: Gastonia community rallies behind homeless veteran after service dog found dead
‘Just smile’: Gastonia community rallies behind homeless veteran after service dog found dead(WBTV)

Sunshine was also tased during the incident.

Rohrer’s friend Dave Dowell was keeping Sunshine at his home in Shelby while Rohrer was in jail Wednesday night. Dowell says Sunshine slipped her leash and ran away Thursday morning.

Unfortunately, Sunshine was found dead a few days later, according to the creator of a GoFundMe for Roher.

Since his arrest, several people in the community have been calling for police transparency and de-escalation training.

Rohrer said he’s grateful for the support.

“It feels amazing,” Rohrer said. “It’s overwhelming to see all the love and support. It is hard to process but it is a blessing to see. It means the world to me and Sunshine.”

Rohrer served in the U.S. Army from 2002 to 2008 and completed one tour overseas.

He now has PTSD and is without a home. Rohrer spends most of his days at the intersection of Cox Road and Gastonia Mall Drive with his best friend and service dog Sunshine, but now they became separated earlier this week.

“We can all come together as a community and stand up to the things we believe in,” Rohrer said. “It’s so easy just to be kind to one and another and show support, and just smile.”

Rohrer has been living in a camp near the shopping center at the intersection of Cox Road and Gastonia Mall Drive for the last five months.

“I feel horrible for him,” Huxhold said. “I feel that he needs to get some justice and peace, and I wish his life gets better.”

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