Crime & Courts

Sheriff Blasts FITSNews Amid New Animal Cruelty Allegations

“Look at this piece of s*** response.”

What happens when a South Carolina sheriff goes after FITSNews on Facebook for publishing an exposé on his deputies shooting “docile” dogs with a shotgun? According to the analytics, he’s inundated with dissatisfied comments from citizens — bad timing for a politician announcing his bid for reelection. 

When the sheriff criticized this outlet last Thursday, his constituents responded by flooding our hotlines with similar instances of alleged animal cruelty under his watch. We have since launched several investigations into deputy-related shootings dating back to 2019.

Meanwhile, our “unfortunate” exposé landed his agency in the crosshairs of an internationally recognized animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia. Perhaps readers are familiar with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, otherwise known as PETA?

Come three weeks after contacting his office — and two days after publishing our exposé without a response — sheriff Don Reynolds of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) finally addressed the graphic incident in question.

Spoiler alert, though, we’re the bad guys.

***

BEHIND THE BADGE

As reported last week, LCSO lieutenant Timothy Byrd and animal control sergeant Geoffrey Brown shot at three docile dogs with a department-issued shotgun last December — striking at least one animal in the presence of officers with the Laurens Police Department (LPD).

It happened after a frightened 92-year-old woman called Laurens County emergency services to report the canines loitering about her backyard. She told the operator that her goat had died three days prior, and that all three dogs were gunning for its carcass.

On that point, leaked police footage reveals that the animals were sunbathing when Byrd and Brown shot them with a singular buckshot. The same footage reveals that LCSO made no effort to apprehend them beforehand.

The 12-gauge blast was witnessed by an associate of the Humane Society of Greenwood who then notified a board member: S.C. eighth judicial circuit public defender Chelsea McNeill. At the courts discretion, her office represents financially indigent defendants across Greenwood, Newberry, Abbeville and — wait for it — Laurens County. 

Support FITSNews … SUBSCRIBE!

***

“And because [LCSO] is trying to prosecute my clients, I’m interested in what they are doing,” said McNeill during last week’s coverage. “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 shooting, McNeill’s office concluded that Brown and Byrd were guilty of felonious animal cruelty for the unprovoked shooting of these animals. Her argument? That a civilian would be arrested for doing the exact same thing under the exact same circumstance.

For a better understanding of what transpired on December 17, 2022, we encourage you to read our exposé: Sheriff Remains Silent On Graphic Video Of Deputy Shooting Dog. The five-minute documentary essay we published with it is worth scrutinizing, too.

(Click to View)

(FITSNews/ YouTube)

***

HOW WE INVESTIGATE

While the abhorrent footage, incident reports, emergency dispatch calls and recorded police communications were provided to FITSNews on October 30, 2023, we did not contact LCSO until sixteen days later.

Why did we wait? As with any mindful agency, we did not rush to publication and persecution on allegations alone. As with any mindful agency, we scrupulously examined the evidence against Byrd and Brown and questioned additional sources familiar with the situation. 

As with any mindful agency, we asked criminal defense attorneys and experienced animal control officers to review McNeill’s findings. As with any mindful agency, we listened objectively to their dissatisfaction for LCSO’s “egregious misconduct.”

Did the author of this article mention that his grandfather was a senior detective of forgery and financial crimes in Texas before retiring from law enforcement twice — and that the author of this article conferred with him, too?

“Don’t make the sheriff’s office an enemy,” he said. “Get the back story. Who, what, when, where, why and how!”

After establishing the existence of enough damning evidence to proceed, we contacted LCSO for comment at the only email address available on their website — CSnow@lcsosc.com. Our message was sent on Wed, Nov. 15 and reads in part:

While attorneys believe that Byrd and Brown “broke the law” during this service call, I understand there’s two sides to every story. Is the LCSO interested in providing a written statement for our report? 

Like any outlet, we operate on deadlines and appreciate your time!

Wed, Nov 15, 10:41 a.m.

While FITSNews was not expecting an immediate response, we were hopeful that LCSO would share its side of the developing narrative against their office. Instead, we heard nothing back.

That is … until we published the article.

***

“THE FACEBOOK SHERIFF”

As previously noted, sheriff Reynolds took to Facebook two days after the publication of our written report and documentary essay. In accordance with our open microphone policy, we attached his 526-word status update in full.

I would like to address an article that was recently published regarding an Animal Control incident that occurred nearly a year ago. Despite the article’s claim, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office has no record of being contacted by the media outlet prior to the article being published. I was never personally contacted about the events of the incident and was never given the opportunity to respond to any accusations prior to the article being published.

On December 17, 2022, Animal Control officers responded to a call regarding a group of four dogs within the city of Laurens. The video footage provided to the media outlet was from the Laurens Police Department’s dash and body cameras of their responding officers to the scene of the incident. What was not reported in the article was the fact that these dogs were known to have put several citizens in harm’s way and had previously killed multiple pets of citizens within the area. The call for help was made by an elderly citizen who was afraid to exit her home due to the known nature and actions of these dogs. Deputies responded and took measures to protect the safety of our citizens by shooting one of the dogs.

These circumstances are extremely unfortunate. These animals should never have been left to roam the streets by their owners. Being left to scavenge and roam, they became a hazard and risk to the community. As much as I love animals and as hard as this office has worked to rescue animals in need and arrest those at fault for the cruel treatment and abandonment of animals, I never want to see a situation such as this one. Unfortunately, when an animal becomes a risk to others, we are left with few options. 

Animal Control officers had previously attempted several measures to capture these dogs on multiple occasions to prevent further threats to the community. Unfortunately, they were not successful. While it is our desire and intent to help every animal survive and find a good home, our resources are very limited, and unfortunately, we are unable to help every animal find that home.

Portions of videos do not tell an entire story or give you the entire picture. It is unfortunate that this article was published without our having an opportunity to give all the facts. It is unfortunate that our officers, who work hard every day to protect and serve, have been singled out as villains. It is terribly unfortunate that we don’t have the resources to take in every stray animal within the 700 square miles of Laurens County and provide them with the food and care they need. It is extremely unfortunate that all the work that we have done to address animal cruelty within this county is being tainted by a story and a video that fails to give the full context and narrative of the situation. 

This office is dedicated to protecting and serving the citizens of Laurens County and we will continue to do that each day to the best of our ability.  We appreciate all the support we receive in these efforts.

Sheriff Don Reynolds

Thur, Dec 7, 3:33 p.m.

***

PARTING NOTES …

While the sheriff maintains that we omitted pertinent information from last week’s publication, we encourage anyone who agrees to click our hyperlinks — especially where we cited LCSO’s incorrectly dated incident report and LPD’s correctly dated incident report

Moreover, we know the hyperlinks work as a cruelty investigator for PETA inquired about sergeant Brown’s case narrative specifically. Rest assured that we will publish updates if/when that conversation continues. 

As with any agency accused of misconduct, we once again reached out to LCSO’s primary email before publishing this report. We then emailed Sheriff Reynolds once his address was shared by a constituent — dreynolds@laurenssheriff.com.

The latest request was sent on Tue, Dec 12 and forwarded on Wed, Dec 13. It reads in part:

While it appears that Sheriff Reynolds addressed his discontent on Facebook, I’m curious to see if his office is interested in providing an additional statement for our report.

Moreover, it appears that LCSO’s primary email address is unreliable — as Sheriff Reynolds insists that his office did not receive my message sent on November 15, 2023.

On that point, what is the best way to contact LCSO and its staff to ensure my messages are never missed again?

Wed, Dec 13, 12:21 p.m.

Neither Sheriff Reynolds nor his personnel responded to our second request for comment.

While FITSNews is actively investigating the latest claims of animal cruelty against LCSO, the publishing of at least one additional deputy-related shooting seems inevitable.

In the interim, take a look at the graphic aftermath of three 9mm bullets purportedly unloaded into a mix breed puppy named Hondo …

(Click to View)

What happened to Hondo and why? Stay tuned …

Finally, if you know of similar cases that deserve investigative scrutiny, please reach out to this media outlet. We’re not only committed to exposing nefarious activity within government — but steadfast on holding our law enforcement as accountable as they hold the public.

***

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.

***

WANNA SOUND OFF?

Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.

***

Get our newsletter by clicking here …

*****

Related posts

Crime & Courts

Rose Petal Saga: Victim’s Boyfriend Acquitted On Custodial Interference Charge

Will Folks
Crime & Courts

SC1: Son Of South Carolina Congressional Candidate Arrested … Again

Will Folks
Crime & Courts

Marvin Pendarvis Investigation: Scope Expanding

FITSNews

7 comments

Jeff December 16, 2023 at 8:10 am

There is much that can be said about this sheriff and his apparent “war tactics” pertaining to animal control but I think it is self-evident he has endorsed a “shoot on sight” form of “control”.
What is more interesting to me is the way many sheriff’s use social media to promote themselves in every way possible to the point they spend hours a day addicted to endorphin hits generated from plantation loyalists who worship the Thick Blue Line.
It becomes an addiction that consumes them to the point even news outlets are addressed through, in this case, FaceBook but; social media is a double-edged sword. In spite of all the shiny propaganda pieces these sheriff’s constantly post to boost their own self-worth, as soon as something that exposes what is actually going on and the comments begin to roll in they are left scrambling to do damage control in the only form they are familiar with, social media. This brings even more attention to the dark underbelly of these institutions which begins to spin out of control. Suddenly victims begin to come forward as they see they are not alone and the sheriffs find their only alternative is to shut up. go silent and or go back to posting the sunshine and lollypop face they want everyone to see in an effort to shove the problem down the preverbal memory hole of public awareness.
These stories are important as they hold government accountable or at least shine the light so we can see the cockroaches scrambling into the cracks.
Keep the flashlight on and you might consider some spare batteries for backup. There are many more dark places to explore.

Reply
Get Over It December 16, 2023 at 1:10 pm

The dogs were on the lady’s property and causing her problems. Cops took care of ghe dog and therefore, the dog problem. There are far more dogs than people who want, or need, them. Job well done by the deputies. Problem solved, problem stays solved.

Reply
Tara Corley Top fan December 20, 2023 at 4:42 pm

If it were your dog you would not feel that way.

Reply
Jill McGuire Top fan December 17, 2023 at 11:56 am

I’m curious. The woman stated that the goat had died three days prior to the dogs appearing on her property. Three days !!! Is that not a violation of some public health ordinances?

Reply
jbl1a December 18, 2023 at 7:49 am

How did you think he would react. You only had part of the story and went with it anyway. That’s called half assed reporting

Reply
Katie Top fan December 18, 2023 at 8:04 am

Again, looks like another story that was not covered by the local media. Thanks FitsNews!

Reply
Justice Always Top fan December 21, 2023 at 12:04 am

Great reporting! Your Grandfather was on point with everything! In my opinion, nothing to hide and he had time to speak up.
Thankful for you and the team always getting the facts of cases and taking your time to do so.

Reply

Leave a Comment