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WCNC petitions for bodycam video in arrest of Gastonia homeless veteran

The arrest of Joshua Rohrer and his service dog, Sunshine Rae, being shot with a stun gun sparked protests and criticism of Gastonia Police.

GASTONIA, N.C. — A media coalition led by WCNC Charlotte has petitioned a judge to release all body camera videos showing the October arrest of a Gastonia homeless veteran and the tasing of his service dog, Sunshine Rae. 

Gastonia Police arrested Joshua Rohrer on charges of panhandling and resisting arrest at the intersection of Cox Road and Gaston Mall Drive in east Gastonia in mid-October.

Four witnesses told WCNC Charlotte the two officers who arrested Rohrer unnecessarily escalated the situation and roughed up Rohrer while placing him in handcuffs.

Rohrer and other witnesses said an officer shot his service dog, Sunshine Rae, with a stun gun after the officer said the dog bit his boot.

Rohrer said Sunshine ran away and was found dead days later after being hit by a car.

The arrest led to protests and criticism of the officers' handling of the situation.

In court Thursday afternoon, Gaston County district attorney Travis Page and Gastonia Police department's attorney Laura Burton said they opposed releasing the videos until after Rohrer's court proceedings.

Among their concerns, they questioned whether the "right to a fair trial" would be significantly diminished if the videos were released.

WCNC's attorney, Jonathan Buchan, argued given the attention and protests following Rohrer's arrest, there's a "compelling public interest" in releasing the videos.

The petition said releasing the recordings wouldn't jeopardize Rohrer’s right to a fair trial.

In fact, Rohrer and his attorney support the petition.

"I think it's crucial to let everyone see the travesty that was committed that day," Rohrer said.

A media coalition led by WCNC Charlotte has petitioned the courts to allow the release of body camera video in the...

Posted by Brandon Goldner on Monday, November 29, 2021

On Monday afternoon, a judge informed all parties that he would make a decision on the petition later this week.

Rohrer appeared in court with his new dog that he planned to train as his new service dog, a 9-week-old Belgian Malinois named Justice Rae.

"Because we hope to get justice for what happened to Sunshine," Rohrer explained about the reason for his dog's name. "She's been amazing. She's a great dog, very attentive and smart."

The judge will make a decision after he reviews all 105 minutes of body camera video.

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Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.