Gaston Co. DA: Officers involved in controversial veteran arrest will not face charges

The decision was announced at a Gastonia City Council meeting.
The Gastonia officers who were involved in the controversial arrest of veteran Joshua Rohrer will not face criminal charges.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 3:09 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - The Gastonia officers who were involved in the controversial arrest of veteran Joshua Rohrer will not face criminal charges, Gaston County District Attorney Travis Page announced.

Page released his decision at a Gastonia City Council meeting.

Rohrer was arrested Oct. 13, 2021 and charged with panhandling and resisting an officer. Rohrer and his attorney accused Gastonia Police Officers Maurice Taylor and Cierra Brooks of treating him improperly when he was arrested.

“[I was] slammed around and treated like less than trash,” Rohrer said in a 2021 interview with WBTV. He also said he was slammed onto the police car while he was being arrested.

The officers admitted to tasing his service dog, Sunshine. The two were separated and she was later hit by a car and killed while in the care of a friend.

[Gastonia police respond after homeless veteran’s service dog found dead following his arrest]

His charges were later dropped after reaching a plea agreement for a driving while licensed revoked charge unrelated to the arrest.

[Gastonia police release body cam footage of controversial U.S. veteran arrest]

Page released the following statement after electing not to charge the officers:

Following the release of the Gastonia Police Department body-worn camera footage, there have been questions posed as to whether the officers involved would face a criminal investigation and/or criminal charges.

Immediately after first reviewing this footage in 2021, I consulted with the state Bureau of investigation about a criminal investigation. I was of the opinion then, and remain of the opinion, that Officers Brooks and Taylor Committed no acts of criminal wrongdoing.

I believe then, as I believe now, that the only criminal acts depicted in the body cam footage of October 13, 2021 were committed by Joshua Rohrer, who resisted, delayed, and obstructed the actions of officers Brooks and Taylor. On two occasions, a grand jury found probable cause to support those allegations.

My Office’s dismissal of the relevant charges as part of a plea agreement was in no way a repudiation or negative reflection of the actions of the officers involved; in fact, it was an act of mercy given to a veteran with a very concerning criminal history in hopes that he would receive the assistance he dearly needs.

WBTV reached out to Rohrer for a statement and receiving the following:

The statement from Gaston County DA Travis Page continues to exemplify the reason the citizens of Gaston County, of North Carolina, and of the Nation continue to have grave concerns about policing and the justice system in our Country. Being homeless, exercising Constitutional protected activities and providing a valid identification is far from a criminal act. In addition to my arrest, the arrest of Scotty Reid for documenting a protest on a public sidewalk shows that DA Travis Page has no desire to uphold the Constitution and use a broken justice system to maintain the status quo in Gaston County.

Millions of people across social media have seen the tasing of Sunshine and continue to question the actions of Officer Taylor and Officer Brooks. The North Carolina statute is clear, “Any person who knows or has reason to know that an animal is a law enforcement agency animal, an assistance animal, or a search and rescue animal and who willfully causes or attempts to cause serious harm to the animal is guilty of a Class I felony. North Carolina GS 14-163.1(b)” Sunshine did not bite Officer Taylor and Officer Taylor covered up his willfully malicious actions by lying about being bitten. I will continue to work towards getting justice for Sunshine, and educating the public and Law Enforcement on Service Animal Laws and Access Rights. I will not stop fighting for my rights.