Nicholas Rockholts 7-year-old pit bull Rocky had been sluggish, lethargic and depressed the past couple weeks the result of a bout with heartworms. On New Years Eve, he died the result of gunshot wounds inflicted when authorities say the dog charged at a police officer.
But Rockholt, upset at the officers actions, claims his dog had already heeled by the time the officer fired hisgun and only ran at the officer because he was a stranger in the yard who did not identify himself as police. Family and friends say Rocky was stereotyped because of his breed.
Police were sent to a North Jones Avenue home at about 11 p.m. Tuesday, New Years Eve, when someone complained about loud noise coming from a house party, according to a Rock Hill Police report. Police had earlier warned the residents about the noise violation.
The officer, Sgt. Donald Cribb, parked his patrol car away from the home and walked toward the back of the house because he thought the music was coming from the backyard.
Thats when two pit bulls charged toward him, the report states. Cribb moved away from the dogs, yelling at them to prevent them from attacking. The first of the two dogs turned around and ran back toward the house. The second dog, however, continued charging at the officer. Believing the dog was about to attack, Cribb drew his gun and fired two shots at the dog. The dog got up and ran back toward the house.
Several people at the party walked outside and began screaming at Cribb, the report states. Backup arrived.
Matthew Lee, who attended the party after getting off work, said he was upset that the dog, Rocky, had been shot and he used profanity when speaking with the officer. Lee told the Herald he feels that Rocky did not have to die.
I think the officer was afraid that he would get bit, he said. He couldve reacted a whole lot different.
Lee was arrested, charged with public disorderly conduct, the report states. A second man who police felt wanted to fight the officer disappeared into the crowd before officers could arrest him.
Now, days later, Rockys death has left a void in Rockholts family.
Rocky had been with the family for seven years. Three of those years were spent under Nicholas Rockholts care; Rockholt took in the dog after his brother died.
On New Years Eve, Rockholt said family and friends gathered at the North Jones Avenue home to celebrate the holiday with music, drinks and fireworks.
Rockholts sister, Katherine Payne, told The Herald that Cribb did not identify himself as people at the party spotted him dressed in black entering the yard. When the 85-pound red-nosed pit bull approached the officer, she told the dog to stop. He did, she said, and heeled, sitting down in front of the officer before three shots were fired.
Police say differently. The dog stopped for a few seconds before he went to charge at the officer again, said Executive Officer Mark Bollinger with the Rock Hill Police Department. The officer drew his weapon and fired.
He feels bad about it, Bollinger said. We dont want to (shoot dogs), but our officers dont want to get hurt deciding if the dogs will bite or not. We dont let dogs bite us.
The people who loved Rocky said he never would have, but he did what dogs are supposed to do defend their owners and territory.
Payne, who identified herself to police as Rockys owner and the host of the party, was charged with violation of the citys noise ordinance and dogs at large, a citation she disputes because she says Rocky was under her command on her property.
Police would not allow those in attendance to leave the scene for at least 15 minutes, Rockholt said. While they were waiting, Rocky sat in the car, bleeding.
Rockholt drove to a veterinarians office in Charlotte, where he was told the dogs shoulder blade was fractured and his leg would have to be amputated. Rockholt didnt have the money for the surgery. He paid $100 to have Rocky euthanized.
I would have taken the bullet for this dog, said Rockholt, who buried Rocky in his backyard on Wednesday. My dog did the right thing.
I would just like see him stop shooting animals, he said about the officer. Im sure hes saved more lives than hes taken, but this was a life that did not need to be taken.
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082