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Gastonia police continue review of controversial arrest of homeless veteran

A statement from the department acknowledged the impact the incident had on the community.

GASTONIA, N.C. — The Gastonia Police Department said they're continuing to review a controversial arrest of a homeless veteran that unfolded earlier in October 2021.

Joshua Rohrer, an Army veteran, was arrested by police on Oct. 13 and charged with resisting arrest and illegally begging for money. However, members of the community rallied around him after witnesses claimed he and his service dog, Sunshine, were roughed up during the arrest. Witnesses told WCNC Charlotte Sunshine was tased after biting an officer's boot.

PREVIOUSLY: Witnesses accuse Gastonia police of roughly arresting homeless veteran, tasing his service dog

While Rohrer was booked, Gastonia police said Sunshine was placed in the custody of Gaston County Animal Care and Enforcement, before being released to Rohrer's Veterans Affairs advocate living in Cleveland County. Sadly, Sunshine was able to get out of the house and was hit and killed by a car.

Part of the statement from Gastonia police, released on Saturday, Oct. 30, acknowledged the community's concerns around Rohrer's arrest. However, the statement says the department is limited in what it can release to the public as the criminal case against him moves through court.

The full statement follows:

The Gastonia Police Department understands the community’s concerns surrounding the circumstances of the October 13 call for service that led to the arrest of Joshua Rohrer for charges related to panhandling, resisting arrest, and failure to provide identification.

The criminal charges for Mr. Rohrer continue to move through the court process. To protect the integrity of the pending criminal case, the Gastonia Police Department is limited on what information it can release as it relates to specific facts in this case.

After Mr. Rohrer’s arrest, his dog Sunshine was turned over to the custody of Gaston County Animal Care and Enforcement (GCACE). GCACE later released Sunshine to a friend of Mr. Rohrer’s choosing. That friend took Sunshine to a home in Cleveland County, North Carolina. According to posts made on social media by friends of Mr. Rohrer, Sunshine left the premises where she was being temporarily housed, entered a roadway, and was struck and killed by a passing vehicle.

The Department fully understands the emotional impact that this entire incident, which includes the reported death of Sunshine, has had on all parties who are directly involved in this case. The Department also fully understands the emotional impact that this case has had on the local community and on the United States military community.

The Department continues to review all the facts surrounding this incident and continues to review the actions of all officers involved in Mr. Rohrer’s arrest.

Since the arrest unfolded, the call to dispatchers was released. The caller had called for police asking if it was legal for two people near the intersection of Cox Road and Gaston Mall Drive to be asking for money with their dogs nearby. One of those two people was identified as Rohrer.

"There has got to be something somebody can do about this," the caller said. "This is bullcrap that they're using this poor animal!"  

PREVIOUSLY: Call to dispatchers released in controversial arrest of Gastonia Army veteran

Protesters have since demanded the release of the body camera footage from Roher's arrest.

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