Local News

Story published: 10-09-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Officer loses job after firing at squirrel in store

By Lacy Hilliard

On Friday, September 27 a call was made from the Dollar General Store on South Shady Street in Mountain City. The call, made by an undisclosed Dollar General employee, was in reference to a squirrel that had made its way into the store and was causing quite a ruckus. Reportedly, after several attempts to apprehend the squirrely intruder, employees allegedly decided to seek the help of local animal control. When the call was received, Animal Control Officer Gary Phillips was unavailable so Town of Mountain City Police Officer Jody Putnam was dispatched.

According to an eyewitness at the scene of the incident, when Officer Putnam arrived, the squirrel was still inside the store and becoming increasingly hostile, presumably due to the stress of the incident. In order to apprehend the perpetrator, Officer Putnam made the decision to mace the squirrel. At the time Officer Putnam deployed the mace, Dollar General customers were allegedly still in the store but the smell and subsequent burn caused a mass evacuation. Unfortunately for Officer Putnam and the squirrel, the mace was not enough to apprehend the squirrel so Putnam reached for his next line of defense –his service weapon.

At this time, it is unknown how many shots Officer Putnam fired at the squirrel. One eyewitness said they didn’t hear a gunshot at all but rather heard the sudden “scream of the squirrel.” When the bystander reentered The Dollar Store, Officer Putnam had the squirrel pinned beneath his shoe and the animal was obviously dead. Another bystander said that Officer Putnam fired three shots. The Tomahawk was unable to reach Mountain City Police Chief Denver Church for a comment and an official report on this incident. Representatives from The Dollar Store also failed to respond after The Tomahawk made attempts to contact them for comment.

As a result of this incident, a unanimous decision was made by the City Council to terminate Officer Putnam’s employment. When reached for comment, Mountain City Mayor Lawrence Keeble said, “The decision the City Council made on this incident speaks for itself.”

It is not clear at this time whether or not any charges will be filed against Putnam. The Tomahawk will update our readers as the situation develops.