Columnist

Family helped by York County deputy who shot a dog: ‘He’s our hero’

March 7, 2014 

— Out in Lesslie, there is a mobile home that is just that – a home.

It has heat and running water, windows and toys – and a family that loves each other. The home has two dogs, too, which live outside in doghouses.

It is a home just like the house on Clara Street in Rock Hill where a York County sheriff’s deputy had to shoot a chained dog that had tried to attack him on Tuesday.

A police officer is someone the public trusts to help when crime, accidents or other misfortunes happen. Cops often have less than a second to make decisions out there in the ugly world, where bad guys and dogs do not think twice about biting or worse.

Eight-year veteran Deputy Jonathan Reed, 28, went to the Clara Street house at the request of a family member to see if the person who lived there was OK. When the dog, Scarlett, lunged at Reed, he shot it in the head.

So many who get enraged when pets die – but maybe not so much when officers are potentially mauled or maimed – have wondered if this deputy did the right thing on Tuesday.

The woman who lives in that mobile home out in Lesslie was worried when she heard about the shooting. She was not worried about whether Reed had done the right thing – she knows Reed does the right thing.

“Oh, no!” Sara Barnstable shouted. “Is Reed OK? Was he hurt?”

Barnstable loves dogs; she has two of her own. She said she never wants to see a dog die, but her concern was for the deputy. A person’s safety “always” comes first, Barnstable said.

And Jonathan Reed? He is more than a police officer to Barnstable.

“He is our hero,” she said. “Jonathan Reed is one of the reasons my family is together today.”

Barnstable lives with her longtime boyfriend, Juan Mata-Morales, and their 3-year-old daughter, Maddisyn. They are a family thriving – due in large part to Deputy Reed.

On Jan. 10, 2012, Reed arrived at Barnstable’s mobile home and took away the toddler and an older son who lived with the couple then. At the time, the house had no heat, no running water. There were holes in the walls and in the floor.

The family kept water in the bathtub to flush the toilet, wore winter coats indoors and had rigged exposed wires to a generator.

Reed made a decision that night, just like he made a decision Tuesday when the dog attacked him. His decision then was that this family mattered. He would not turn his back on people who needed him.

Reed told Barnstable that he had to call Social Services officials, that the kids had to be taken away, because the home was not fit for children to live in during such bitter cold.

But later, Reed and his partner, Deputy Chad Davis, came back to the home repeatedly. Reed, Davis and other volunteers helped fix the house. Reed raised money for the family, and even gave some of his own. He collected truckloads of donations.

Reed also was in court to talk to a judge about the home and the poverty and the love Barnstable had for her children. He told the judge what had been fixed.

He was there when Social Services brought the kids home to stay in a house now fit for them to live in.

“So much of what we have here, how we have been able to make it this far, is because of the deputies who helped us,” Barnstable said Friday. “Jonathan Reed was the one who stood there and told me that night he had to take my kids.

“But he calmed me down. He cared about me. He looked me in the eyes and he said he would help. That he would be back. And he did come back.”

Two years ago, Mata-Morales was struggling to find consistent work. With help from Reed and others, he has now found a steady job.

Reed is “a great man,” he said. “He is my friend.”

Capt. Allen Brandon, head of the sheriff’s patrol division Reed works in, said some people who read about the death of the dog have been upset. He has explained to all that Reed is an officer who cares.

“If a person is not compassionate, we don’t want them,” Brandon said. “People do this job to serve people. It is not for glamor. It is not for money. It is to help people. That is who Jonathan Reed is.”

Barnstable – who first met Reed when he was taking away her kids, who saw him through tears and rage that Reed calmed – also used the word “compassion” to describe him.

“The last thing Officer Reed would ever do is shoot a dog if he had any choice,” Barnstable said. “He is a great guy. He cares about people. He was only at that house when the dog was shot because he cared about people.”

Yes, there has been some rancor by animal-lovers over the split-second decision made by Reed to protect himself, to shoot a 9-year-old dog that was “charging toward” him, according to a sheriff’s report.

But Barnstable knows more about this deputy.

She knows her daughter, whom the couple calls “Maddie,” is a happy, healthy 3-year-old now because Reed cared about her when she was just 1.

Reed held Maddie on that cold day in 2012, and he vowed that she would not live without heat or water if he and Davis had anything to say about it.

“Maddie is doing so great; she has come so far,” Barnstable said. “Jonathan Reed? He cared about Maddie. He’s like family to Maddie, to all of us.”

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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