Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Police officer finds squirrel in dollar store, responds with lethal force

A tree squirrel, being adorable.

A tree squirrel, being adorable.

On September 27, 2013, Mountain City, Tenn., police got a call from an employee of the local Dollar General about a squirrel in the store. The employee had tried unsuccessfully several times to get the disruptive animal out of the store, and was seeking help from animal control. Animal control officer Gary Phillips, however was out on that particular Friday, so police dispatched officer Jody Putnam instead.

By the time the now-former officer Putnam arrived on the scene the squirrel was reportedly becoming hostile at the rude attempts to oust him from his new-found territory. Apparently the officer had no training in animal control, so rather than going for a humane trap and some peanut butter, his first instinct seems to have been to go for the mace. Putnam maced the squirrel with customers in the store. Though no customers were overcome by the chemical, the smell reportedly drove many out of the store “coughing and a hacking.”

That unsuccessful, he reached for his service weapon.

No one knows how many shots he fired. One witness said three, while another said the shots were drowned out by the sudden “scream of the squirrel.” What is known is that the first person to reenter the store found the officer with the deceased squirrel pinned under his boot.

The Mountain Tomohawk was not able to get a comment from┬áPolice Chief Denver Church before the city council acted to terminate officer Putnam’s employment. Mayor Lawrence Keeble said, “The decision the City Council made on this incident speaks for itself,” though Putnam also refused to file his report on the incident, a violation of policy.

It is not known if Putnam will be facing any animal cruelty charges.

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