Gastonia police release video of US Army veteran’s arrest
Hours of body camera footage released Thursday by the Gastonia Police Department shows a then-homeless veteran’s interactions with Gastonia police before, during and after his arrest.
The footage released by police spans two days – October 9 and 13 – and features Joshua Rohrer, 38, who served in the Army National Guard and spent time in Iraq.
Rohrer was arrested on October 13 and charged with begging and resisting arrest, and he has since maintained that officers he met were tough on him and that an officer used a taser on his police dog. audience, Sunshine Rae. These charges were dismissed by the court.
After his arrest, Sunshine was hit by a car in Cleveland County and killed while Rohrer remained in the Gaston County Jail.
On Wednesday, Gaston County Superior Court Judge David Phillips ordered the release of hours of body camera footage. Rohrer and his lawyer, Andrew LaBrèche, have been fighting for his release for months.
The first section of the video features conversations between Rohrer and Officer Maurice Taylor.
Taylor met Rohrer standing in the median at the intersection of Cox Road near the Gastonia Target store, and he tells Rohrer that he cannot beg there and that the median is part of the road. In the conversation that follows, Rohrer denies begging and argues with Taylor.
At one point, Rohrer asks Taylor if he’s a veteran, and Taylor says he is.
“Are you a veteran? You should be ashamed of yourself, man,” Rohrer said.
Taylor tells Rohrer that if he sees him in the median again, he will charge him.
Later, however, Taylor asks Rohrer if he was able to access veterans services.
He tells Rohrer that Rohrer can be on the sidewalk, but not on the median, and the conversation ends cordially.
“I just know you can’t be on the road. I don’t care if you’re on the sidewalk, man. Do what you gotta do. I really wish you luck,” Taylor says. “I apologize that your country has not served you well. Honestly, I don’t know your whole situation, so I can’t really talk about it. I know my situation. I know what I’m doing through the GO.”
“And I appreciate all of your service, man. I’m also sorry for all the things you’ve been through,” Rohrer said in response.
On October 13, Roher met with Gastonia Police Officer Cierra Brooks, who received a complaint that Rohrer was begging on the median. In a long conversation, Rohrer argues with Brooks and initially refuses to give him his ID. As the argument continues, Brooks calls for backup.
“Now you see we have a sergeant and several units on their way here. And I can almost guarantee you that it won’t go your way,” Brooks said.
Taylor arrives and Brooks tells Taylor that she wants to write Rohrer a begging citation, but he refuses to provide her with his ID.
“If you keep arguing with an officer, you’ll go to jail and we’ll have animal control get your dog back. You can’t be here,” Taylor said.
Taylor eventually asks Rohrer for his ID, but he says he needs Rohrer’s ID, not his veterans ID. Rohrer says his ID is expired.
Taylor starts handcuffing him and tells him he’s arrested, and Rohrer starts calling for help.
Brooks leans Rohrer over a police cruiser and tries to hold him back. By then, Sunshine Rae is behind Brooks and Rohrer, and Taylor, who is a few feet away, begins telling Rohrer to “call your dog back”.
“He just bit me,” Taylor says. “Call your dog back.”
Sunshine Rae jumps onto the hood of the police car, then jumps again.
“Call your dog,” Taylor says, and as Sunshine Rae walks behind Brooks, Taylor fires her taser.
Sunshine Rae flees.
Rohrer, at this point, screams and Brooks pins him down as Taylor calls for more police to come to the scene.
“It bit my foot, and I knew it was going to bite you,” Taylor says. “It didn’t break my boot, but it bit my boot.”
More officers arrive and Taylor can be heard telling another officer that Sunshine Rae bit him on the boot as he tried to handcuff Rohrer. While Sunshine’s teeth didn’t go through the boot, he says he thought Sunshine was going to bite Brooks, so he used his taser on Sunshine.
As the officers speak, Rohrer can be heard calling for help and asking for his dog.
Bystanders tried to intervene, telling officers that Rohrer had been standing at that intersection for months and that Sunshine had never attacked anyone.
“We looked at what happened,” shouts a woman. “We looked at what happened. It’s wrong.”
Later, in another video, a passerby asks a policeman: “All these policemen for this guy? It’s a bit ridiculous.”
Near the end of the second section of the released police video, Brooks returns a phone call to a man who says he worked with Rohrer to get him off the streets. He asks Brooks if Rohrer could access the Catawba County Veterans Treatment Court, and he asks if he can speak on Rohrer’s behalf.
Brooks said Rohrer had been criminally charged and his bail would belong to the magistrate. She also tells the man that he cannot speak to the magistrate on Rohrer’s behalf.
“No sir, when it goes to court you can. Not now with the magistrate,” she said.
Rohrer said in an interview after receiving the footage that he wanted Taylor and Brooks to face criminal charges for their treatment of him. He and his supporters intend to push for police reform.
“Once everyone sees what he’s done, and he can be held accountable, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to make sure that something is done about it,” did he declare. “It’s just the beginning.”
Journalist Kara Fohner can be reached at 704-869-1850 or [email protected] Support local journalism by signing up here.