'It was really traumatizing' | Witnesses accuse Gastonia police of roughly arresting homeless veteran, tasing his service dog – WCNC.com

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GASTONIA, N.C. — Residents are protesting an arrest made by the Gastonia Police Department that witnesses allege resulted in officers roughing up a homeless Army veteran and his service dog.
According to police, officers responded to the intersection of Cox Road and Gaston Mall Drive around 6:30 pm Wednesday for a citizen complaint regarding a panhandler.
Officers ultimately booked Joshua Rohrer into jail yesterday evening on charges of illegal begging for money and resisting arrest.
Rohrer’s mother and his Veterans Affairs (VA) advocate, David Dowell, told WCNC Charlotte that Rohrer is an Army veteran who is battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving overseas.
Justice for Josh and Sunshine” | Residents are protesting the arrest of an Army veteran who stands outside a Gastonia shopping center with his service dog. Police arrested Josh Rohrer for begging for money and resisting arrest. Witnesses say the officers unnecessarily (1/2) pic.twitter.com/zxHbmeaGI6
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Crystal Rogers said Rohrer always sat at the median with his service dog. 
“He was a good man. He was always polite,” Rogers said. “He always asked me how my day was, and I’d ask him about his.”
Justyn Huffman and Nydia Conley similarly praised Rohrer and said he never bothered drivers.
They said early Wednesday evening, they saw Rohrer surrounded by officers.
“The officer asked him for his ID. He wasn’t moving fast enough so he tried to reach into his pocket to get his ID,” Huffman said. “They slammed him up against the car. They put cuffs on him.”
Huffman, Conley, and another shopper said after the officers arrested Rohrer, his service dog Sunshine bit an officer’s boot.
They said an officer pulled out a taser and used it on the dog.
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“We’re out here screaming, ‘Don’t shoot the dog! Don’t shoot the dog!’ Huffman said.
Huffman said Sunshine ran to a nearby store with one of the taser’s prongs dangling off her body.
“[Rohrer] said, ‘My dog! My dog!'” Huffman said. “They took him to the back of the police car and slammed him on the pavement.”
Conley shot cell phone video after more officers arrived at the scene.
“It was really traumatizing,” Conley said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Huffman, Conley, and Rohrer came back to the intersection on Thursday morning to protest Rohrer’s arrest.
“We’re trying to do anything we can,” Huffman said. “I wish the police would have that mindset.”
Thursday evening, WCNC Charlotte was able to meet with Rohrer hours after he bonded out. He said what happened to him was traumatizing.
“They proceeded to attack me and rough me up and use excessive force what I would consider police brutality,” he said.
According to Rohrer, he believes somebody called the police claiming he was asking for money. He said he wasn’t and was trying to comply with officers to show them his identification.
At some point, Rohrer said the situation escalated. Now, he’s scared about where Sunshine is after she ran off.
“She’s very sweet, she’s very well trained, she’s very scared right now,” he said.
The Gastonia Police Department told WCNC Charlotte they’re aware of the call for service, and they’re reviewing the arrest to see if all the department’s policies and procedures were properly followed.
For Rohrer, he wishes the encounter went a different direction.
“I wish that they would have been calm and listen to what I had to say instead of attacking me,” he said.
Dowell, Rohrer’s VA advocate, said after the arrest, he brought Sunshine to his home in Shelby, but Sunshine was able to escape.
After Rohrer’s family helped bond him out of jail, Rohrer and Dowell are trying to find the dog, and they’re asking for people to be on the lookout for her.
Contact Brandon Golder at [email protected] and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.
Contact Briana Harper at [email protected] and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 
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