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WVSP Release Detailed Account of Incident Involving Fatal Shooting Of Mason County Pet

Reported by: Send eMail Elizabeth Noreika
Reported: Jun. 30, 2014 8:06 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 30, 2014 8:33 PM EDT
Eyewitness News Photo
Eyewitness News Photo

Mason , Mason County , West Virginia

The West Virginia State Police has released a detailed account following an incident involving a family pet that was shot and killed during a manhunt in Mason County.

The incident took place last week on Jolly Road while a special response team comprised of troopers and deputies were searching for Jonathan Wade.
Troopers say Jeffers had fired shots at them and was wanted on numerous warrants.

Jeffers is considered to be armed and dangerous.
While searching for Jeffers, the special response team ended up in front of Ginger and Jeremy Sweat's home.

This is the press release sent out by the WVSP in its entirety:

As with every response to resistance or aggression, a complete investigation has been conducted into the response of the West Virginia State Police Special Response Team and Sgt. S.T. Harper to the aggressive actions of the canine named Willie Pete which occurred on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 in the Ashton area of Mason County. The investigation found as follows:

On June 24, 2014 at approximately 4 am Mason County Deputy M.L. Stewart was responding to a call on Jolly Road when the suspect, Jonathan Wade Jeffers, fired shots at him and fled. The Mason County Sheriff’s Department requested the assistance of the West Virginia State Police Special Response Team in locating Mr. Jeffers who was considered to be armed and dangerous.

Mr. Jeffers was on home confinement last year and in December cut off his home confinement bracelet. Earlier this year he became engaged in a domestic incident with his father and active warrants are pending concerning that incident. Prior to shooting at Deputy Stewart, Mr. Jeffers had been involved in a domestic incident with his wife. After initial search efforts were made, Mr. Jeffers was pursued by deputies while driving to the residence of a family member on Kansas Lane in Mason County. He then fled on foot before law enforcement officers arrived. These family members provided information to law enforcement that Mr. Jeffers had told them that he would not be taken alive and that he intended to kill law enforcement officers who were pursuing him before he would be arrested.

With this information responding SRT members from the West Virginia State Police began searching for Mr. Jeffers from the location where he had made those threats utilizing WVSP K-9 officer Diego to track Mr. Jeffers. During this portion of the search, the SRT members found an ATV path that they thought Mr. Jeffers may have traveled upon. This path led them to Kansas Lane directly in front of the residence of Ginger and Jeremy Sweat who are relatives of Mr. Jeffers. As they were emerging onto the road from the wooded area a small beagle type dog came out of the weeds and attempted to bite K-9 Diego. Diego began barking at the beagle and it ran toward the Sweat residence. A very large white and brown dog weighing nearly 100 pounds, now known to be Willie Pete, charged from behind the residence toward the members of the WVSP SRT team who were in the road. Mrs. Sweat came out on her porch and took the beagle inside, Sgt. Harper yelled at Mrs. Sweat to get her dog on two occasions as Willie Pete advanced in an aggressive manner. As Mrs. Sweat was securing the beagle, Willie Pete continued toward K-9 Diego while doing so Willie Pete growled and bared his teeth. Sgt. Harper moved between Willie Pete and K-9 Diego who was on leash. Sgt. Harper attempted to thwart Willie Pete’s aggression by body blocking him from K-9 Diego and by kicking gravel at the dog. Finally, when Willie Pete was within 10 feet of K-9 Diego and approximately five feet from Sgt. Harper and still advancing, Sgt. Harper shot him three times. The dog continued acting aggressively after the first two shots requiring Sgt. Harper to shoot a third time. The dog then ran back behind the Sweat residence after the third shot. All three shots were fired when the dog was within 4-6 feet of Sgt. Harper. Sgt. Harper was firing at a sharp downward angle due to the dog’s proximity and therefore was not firing toward any of the residences or people. Further, the evidence clearly shows that the Sgt. Harper only fired upon the dog while the dog was in the roadway.

Officers followed the dog behind the house where it had died. After apologizing to Mr. and Mrs. Sweat for having to kill their dog, the officers assisted the family by helping them bury Willie Pete.

Sgt. S.T. Harper has been a member of the West Virginia State Police K-9 Unit for 14 years. During the first 12 years he was a K-9 handler and in the last 2 years he has been a K-9 Instructor. Sgt. Harper has been around dogs all of his life. He works with dogs daily both as a K-9 handler and trainer and with his personal dogs. Sgt. Harper is well-versed in canine body language and canine behavior. Based upon his observations that Willie Pete’s hackles were raised, he was growling and his teeth were barred as well as the fact that the dog could not be deterred by two other means of non-lethal force from advancing toward K-9 Officer Diego and the WVSP SRT members, Sgt. Harper made the decision to shoot the dog.

There is a leash law in Mason County prohibiting dogs from running at large. At all times during the incident K-9 Officer Diego was on leash.

The West Virginia State Police is extremely sorry for the loss of Willie Pete’s life and the loss sustained by his family. The Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association has approached the West Virginia State Police and provided a voucher to be given to the Sweat family for the adoption of a dog from the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association Shelter on Greenbrier Street in Charleston, West Virginia. The voucher provides for the adoption of a dog that would be spayed or neutered and have its initial vaccinations and rabies shot.

Specifically of note to the public is that Mr. Jeffers is a felon in possession of a firearm. Mr. Jeffers is still at large and is still considered armed and dangerous.

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