Crime & Courts

Sheriff Remains Silent On Graphic Video Of Dog Shooting

“A clear-cut case of animal cruelty …”

What happens when a sheriff’s deputy is caught on camera shooting docile animals with his department-issued shotgun? In South Carolina, he’s commended by superiors and bestowed an award for service.

While the supposed animal cruelty incident was recorded on body-worn and dash-mounted police cameras, it appears as though this evidence was concealed and forgotten by personnel of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) … until now.

Last month, FITSNews was provided approximately two minutes of graphic footage that is — dare we say — an abhorrent example of government overreach and animal cruelty. Unless, of course, you condone the haphazard deployment of shotguns upon innocent canines during service calls.

In this court of pubic opinion, we encourage you — “the jury” — to carefully review the evidence and decide the fate of LCSO lieutenant Timothy Byrd and animal control sergeant Geoffrey Brown.

***

“SHOOT ON SIGHT”

On December 17, 2022, a frightened 92-year-old woman called Laurens County emergency services to report three dogs loitering about her backyard. She informed the operator that her goat had died three days prior, and that three unattended animals were gunning for its carcass.

“I’m really afraid to go outside,” the senior citizen said during her fleeting conversation with dispatch — timestamped at 8:49 a.m. that Saturday. “They’re just big ol’ dogs. And they’re just out here in my back yard, going in and out of this little shed that goes to where the goat was.”

The woman was transferred to animal control’s answering machine and subsequently left a message, per recordings obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. 

Within thirty minutes, the woman’s son called the same emergency service line and spoke with the same dispatch operator. He requested permission to shoot the dogs as animal control services were unavailable until Monday morning.

“I know one of them’s a German Shepard and it has a collar on,” he exclaimed during his recorded conversation with dispatch. “They’re probably somebody’s pets, or some kid’s pets … I just don’t want my momma to go out that door, which I done told her!”

Dispatch informed the caller of his constitutional rights before — at long last — contacting the singular animal control unit on-call. The officer in question? Purported animal rights advocate, LCSO Sgt. Brown.

(Click to view)

Laurens County sheriff Don Reynolds and LCSO sergeant Geoffrey Brown.
(Laurens County Sheriff’s Office)

In mid-2020, Brown became a deputized sergeant after Laurens County council approved sheriff Don Reynolds’ request to take over animal control — and supply its employees with ammunition and arresting power. 

“Since I have taken office, we have increased arrests involving animal cruelty by 240 percent,” Reynolds said at the time. “Animal control has done a good job under the supervision of … Geoff Brown. We will continue together as one. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office will not tolerate animal neglect or cruelty. Period.”

Within months of the amalgamation, No Kill South Carolina and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) were lauding Brown for his overthrow of a puppy mill, eradication of canine hoarding and ceaseless denunciation of animal cruelty. 

Hold your applause, though … there’s more to this story.

When dispatch notified Brown of the dogs at issue on this particular morning, he somehow recognized them as an elusive pack of “dangerous animals running at large.” Or at least that’s what he titled them in an incorrectly dated incident report obtained through FOIA.

“The city’s supposed to know about this … It’s been authorized to shoot on sight,” Brown said during his recorded conversation with dispatch — provided to FITSNews. He then instructed emergency services to deploy the Laurens Police Department (LPD) and kill as many of these “dangerous” canines as possible.

“If they only get one [dog], that’s one that’s put down and I’ll remove it,” continued Brown from the confines of his home in Kinards. “I will be on my way. It’s going to take me a minute to get dressed and get there.”

***

THREE DOGS, ONE BUCKSHOT BLAST …

At 9:29 a.m., LPD was dispatched to the 92-year-old’s property with explicit orders to shoot and kill the dogs without consequence. Upon arrival, though, the responding LPD officers evaluated the situation and refused the order.

“As I walked around the residence, I saw a beige in color dog that had a collar around his neck,” one LPD officer wrote in his accurately dated incident report. “While waiting on animal control from Laurens County Sheriff’s Office to arrive on scene, all three dogs were laying on the ground in the back yard.”

Simply put, LPD refused to shoot the dogs as they were stationary and docile amid oncoming squad cars and bustling officers. That is, until Byrd and Brown arrived …

“Lieutenant Byrd and sergeant Brown exited their vehicles without making contact with myself or sergeant Willard,” continued the LPD officer. “Lieutenant Byrd had his shotgun in his possession. When both Laurens County deputies approached the dogs, all three were still laying on the ground.”

As body-worn and dash-mounted police cameras explicitly reveal, Byrd and Brown nonchalantly walk towards the dogs before stopping approximately 30 yards (90 feet) from where the animals were sunbathing. 

Byrd takes a knee and casually mounts his 12-gauge shotgun while Brown shields his ears from the eminent blast. He racks a buckshot and pulls the trigger.

“[Byrd] shot the larger beige collared dog with his shotgun,” concluded the LPD officer. “All three dogs at this time took off running in different directions. The injured collared dog limped away into the woodline yelping. Neither Lieutenant Byrd nor Sergeant Brown made contact with the complainant while I was on scene.”

Take a look …

(Click to view)

DASHCAM (8th Circuit Public Defender’s Office)
BODYCAM (8th Circuit Public Defender’s Office)

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SWEPT UNDER THE BADGE …

Five months after Byrd was captured on camera firing his department-issued shotgun into a docile canine, the deputy was honored by his fellow brothers and sisters in blue.

On May 24, 2023, Byrd received the prestigious Laurens County Officer of the Year Award during a widely publicized ceremony at Piedmont Technical College (PTI). Sheriff Reynolds spoke at the service in praise of Byrd.

(Click to view)

Laurens County sheriff Don Reynolds, LCSO lieutenant Timothy Byrd and Greenville County sheriff Hobart Lewis.
(Laurens County Sheriff’s Office)

“Lieutenant Byrd is a dedicated employee to this office,” Reynolds said during the ceremony. “He is reliable and shows great strength of character. I am proud of Byrd and his efforts to be compassionate to victims and bring justice to criminals.”

In cased you missed the coverage, you can watch Byrd’s FOX Carolina interview here, read his GoLaurens headline story here, or click through his Who’s On The Move feature here

***

IN CLOSING …

“The conduct is horrific,” said Chelsea McNeill, S.C. eighth judicial circuit public defender and longtime board member of the Humane Society of Greenwood. “You don’t shoot at docile animals with a shotgun from 30 yards away. It’s disgusting, it’s despicable and it’s animal cruelty. That’s what this is.”

At the direction of the court, McNeill’s office represents financially indigent defendants across Greenwood, Newberry, Abbeville and Laurens County. She told FITSNews that LCSO has generated “hundreds” of animal cruelty cases since deputizing Sgt. Brown — more than any agency within her circuit.

“And because they’re trying to prosecute my clients, I’m interested in what they are doing,” McNeill said. “And if they are acting in a way that is kosher, okay. But if they are acting in a criminal manner themselves, then their credibility is shot and that needs to be exposed to juries.”

Following her 11-month investigation into the canine shooting incident, McNeill concluded that Brown and Byrd are — at a minimum — guilty of felonious animal cruelty. Her case in point? That a civilian would be arrested for doing the exact same thing under the exact same circumstance.

“Yes, they should be charged,” declared McNeill. “And yes, they should be defendants. And yes, they should be arrested … And yes, they should go through the public humiliation of having their names slandered in the news — just like they slander other people in the news for far less than what they have done.”

As with any agency accused of misconduct, we reached out to LCSO and informed them of the videos and incident reports within our possession. Despite our requests for explanation and comment — sent on November 15, 2023 — our outlet received no response.

Within that timeframe, FITSNews visited the LCSO and county animal shelter twice. We unhurriedly filmed among squad cars and deputized personnel for the exhaustive video portion of this report. Even then, not a word from beyond the badge.

“If you stand by your officers actions, then I think you would come out and say something,” concluded McNeill. “But the fact that you’re remaining silent means that you know that you f*** up.”

If you know of cases similar to this one in your community that deserve investigative scrutiny, please reach out to this media outlet. We’re not only committed to exposing nefarious activity within government — but compelled to hold our public servants as accountable as they hold the public.

UPDATE | Since publishing this article, Laurens County sheriff Don Reynolds has assailed FITSNews on Facebook, fired LCSO sergeant Geoffrey Brown, and announced his re-election campaign with primary opposition.

***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Andrew Fancher (Travis Bell)

Andrew Fancher is a Lone Star Emmy award-winning journalist from Dallas, Texas. Cut from a bloodline of outlaws and lawmen alike, he was the first of his family to graduate college which was accomplished with honors. Got a story idea or news tip for Andy? Email him directly and connect with him socially across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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16 comments

Tom December 4, 2023 at 5:20 pm

I agree, they should be charged and if convicted of a felony, they will need to be discharged.

Reply
Observer (the real one) December 4, 2023 at 10:48 pm

What felony? Triggering a snowflake animal lover?
Blues lives are all that matter.

Reply
STACIE Byrd December 4, 2023 at 10:36 pm

It is about time that the way our animals are treated here in Laurens, SC by those that are suppose to protect them come to light. There is more to come. Much more.

Reply
Observer ( the real one) December 4, 2023 at 10:46 pm

Bless your heart.

Police have not sworn to protect dogs or you. Just property.

Reply
Greg Walls January 3, 2024 at 5:47 pm

Obviously the reporter nor the public defender live in a rural areas and have to put up with roaming wild dogs. Bless your hearts. Officer Brown helped me on several occasions with the criminals who litter on roadsides. The littering, animals running wild, etc are the illegal, “nefarious” activities the reporter and public defender should be concerned about. Too bad Officer Brown is no longer here to help the law abiding citizens who care about their community.

Reply
Observer (the real one) December 4, 2023 at 10:43 pm

The All Lives Matter crowd is now the Dogs Lives Matter crowd.

Sending thoughts and prayers.

Reply
Anonymous December 5, 2023 at 7:18 pm

Bottom line is if the actions of the officers were something that they themselves would arrest and charge a civilian for doing. Then how wld u justify the officers not facing the same consequences. They are bound by the same laws as anybody else. They are supposed to be anyway. Guess not.

Reply
Patty McNerney December 5, 2023 at 8:18 pm

YOU ARE CLUELESS! These dogs had been an absolute nightmare for my family and our neighborhood for almost a year! These dogs have killed countless pets and I watched them drag a dog right off of his owners’ deck! By the grace of God, that dog escaped. You should have seen them when they ripped my neighbors’ cat in half…they were not harmless. They came at my husband TWICE, they came at me, growling and snarling, and I was in my own back yard. And yes, that one dog had an old collar on, but had been running with a pack for a YEAR prior to this. A YEAR! They did not walk into someone’s back yard and open fire for no reason! YOU ARE LITERALLY TRYING TO MAKE ANIMAL CONTROL LOOK BAD. We call that SLANDER where I come from. You have one very small part of this story. Why haven’t you talked to me, or my neighbors? We could enlighten you as to the truth. These dogs were not friendly, they were not dogs that could be rehabilitated. I absolutely love animals, and I am usually the first person to stand up for an animal. Not this time. Not after being face to face with these dogs. I have worked with dogs my entire life, these were no longer domesticated animals. Just because a bear lays in your yard and takes a nap, doesn’t make it harmless! They were wild and they would do whatever they needed to in order to survive. These dogs had us held prisoner in our own home! We had to “be sure” the dogs were not around just to take our dog out in his own yard! Animal control came out EVERY TIME I CALLED! They tried to resolve this peacefully, they tried to work with us. They set traps for weeks in my back yard, the dogs literally walked past the traps. They tried to stake out the dogs, and they also tried to find where they were bedding down. All to no avail! These dogs moved just like a pack of coyotes; they would run into heavy brush to avoid being caught. Dogs run fast, very fast, you have to be able to shoot when they are still, if at all possible. You should have seen them when they cornered prey, they worked the area together, they would corner it. then they would move in from behind. Imagine them coming up on you, your grandma, your child. It would not be a nice way to die. You would have been the first person to beg for these dogs to be killed, had they attacked a child. Please, stop making up news and start reporting facts. This is the most one sided, incorrect, and misinformed news story I have ever heard. You should be ashamed of yourself for reporting fake news. I stand behind these officers 100% for their THOROUGH investigation and follow through. I thank these officers for shooting these dogs.
Sincerly, Patty McNerney Laurens Resident

Reply
Anonymous December 6, 2023 at 1:29 pm

You don’t shoot a dog with buckshot at 30 yards and leave it to go and suffer and then you don’t just get back in your vehicle and leave without making contact with the landowner and then when a member of the community shoots a dog that is killing their animals you go in charge them what sense does that make?

Reply
Squishy123 (the original) December 14, 2023 at 2:05 pm

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a hysterical woman. From the video, there was no attempt by the heroes to even try to capture these three vicious animals as they laid in the grass sunbathing as armed strangers approached them.

Reply
Margie Walker December 22, 2023 at 3:17 pm

These dogs needed to be put down before they killed someone.
Like Lt. Byrd, or not, he did the right thing, and he’s an upstanding officer

Reply
No name December 6, 2023 at 6:23 am

Laurens County has brought this problem on themselves for YEARS! Animal control REFUSES to pick up or take in stray dogs claiming their shelter is full so they can claim to be a “no kill facility” to the public. In the meantime they’re leaving dogs on the streets starving to death, getting hit by cars or shot. These strays are unaltered and unvaccinated which means they’re breeding adding to the problem. Eventually dogs WILL turn feral and run in packs of wild dogs trying to survive by eating or killing anything they can find because nobody is taking care of them! Strange they can write a citation for animal cruelty or no up to date vaccines when basically the county is doing the exact same thing! It’s NOT the property owners responsibility to deal with stray animals when we pay taxes for animal control! Check out Laurens County Sheriff’s Animal Control page on Facebook! They come out, take pictures wherever strays are found, LEAVE them there with NOBODY taking care of them then post them on their facebook page saying if this is your dog contact us so we can help you get it home? State law REQUIRES food, water and shelter for pets and you can actually be arrested for animal cruelty! How can the county not be held accountable for deliberately leaving starving animals on the streets without food water or shelter? There was recently three goats killed in the city that was all over the news which turned out to be a pack of dogs that killed them. What will it take? A child getting mauled or tons of lawsuits against the county where people got hurt? DO YOUR JOB that our taxes PAY you to do Laurens County!

Reply
No Name December 6, 2023 at 6:41 pm

Here is the bottom line. For a Sheriff who has championed himself and his Department for handling animals with love, care, and affording them ANIMAL RIGHTS, he sure did not live up to the official mission. He has always been quick to call regular citizens SCUM, MORONS, LESS THANS, and anything else that flies out of his mouth about others abusing animals. But he will go and reward two Deputys that flat out did just that, abused animals. They could have used tranquilizers and put the dogs under, then transported them and put them down humanely. But instead he let his LT. shoot the dogs like that Deputy was Rambo or something. Good job Sheriff…. NOT. So I beg the question, would you do the same to a Suspect if behind closed doors? Laurens County Doesn’t need a Walker Texas Ranger wanna be as Sheriff, or his Elvis TCB tag on his car. Yea you sure are TCB alright! Taking Care Of Bussiness, the Corrupt kind!!!!!!

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No Name December 7, 2023 at 12:54 am

The problem began before CoVid. The new guy figured out a way to make AC a money maker rather than the deficit it has always been by focusing on puppy mills, dog fighting and backyard breeder raids. Which is a good thing but not to the extend that there is only room for money making dogs due to court cases which takes months. There is no room for strays and when a dog is alone on its own for so long they naturally will become a part of a pack and do what it needs to provide for themselves. There needs to be a balance. X amount of kennels for court and x amount for strays since that is what people pay taxes for. The longer AC stays filled with the money makers the worse the stray/wild dog problem is going to continue and get worse. I have had more than 1 or 2 people tell me that when they called AC about a stray on their property they were told it’s your property so shoot it cause we don’t have room.

Reply
jbl1a December 7, 2023 at 7:54 am

KEEP YOUR DOGS CONTAINED!!!. If you cant take proper care of your animals and keep them inside, on a leash or in a fenced yard maybe you should not have any animals. And cant tell from the video but it looked to be pit bull breeds or mixed. These scenarios are far too common for so many who own this type dog. When they destroy your livestock or hurt and injure your kid or you you will think different.

Reply
Stacie Byrd Top fan December 20, 2023 at 11:03 pm

Are you seriously saying that pit bull type dogs are more dangerous than other breeds? Whatever, these officers are wrong and cruel and they get away with it all to often. I believe you must be choosing not to hear what has been going on with Animal Control for many many years.

Reply

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