MORGANTON, N.C. (WJZY) — Deputies in North Carolina have arrested a suspect who they say shot and killed a homeless man’s emotional support dog for no apparent reason.
The Burke County Sheriff’s Office said Markus Connelly turned himself in Tuesday afternoon. He is charged with shooting and killing a homeless man’s support dog in Morganton over the weekend.
Authorities say the “brazen” attack was not a case of self-defense.
“Everybody loved DJ,” said the dog’s owner, Bennett Deyton.
Deyton lives on the street and suffers from PTSD. He had owned the dog, named DJ Diamond, for more than 10 years and says the pit bull terrier Dalmatian was more than a pet. He was family.
“I called him my son,” Deyton said. “I said, ‘Come on, son, let’s go.’”
According to law enforcement, the shooting happened around 2:30 p.m. Sunday in front of Jerry’s Neighborhood Store. The suspect was captured on surveillance video.
“DJ wouldn’t hurt nobody,” said Deyton. “It just cut me straight to the bone.”
Deyton said DJ was not on a leash and “low growled” at the suspect while laying down. He said the man, identified as Connelly, turned around to leave but came back with a gun from his car.
“He said, ‘This is what happens to dogs,’ and after I begged him please don’t shoot my dog, he was looking at me, he didn’t even look down, he just fired, hit DJ in the back,” he said. “I just cried, more because the action, the violence behind the way it happened.”
Morganton Public Safety called the attack “brazen” and asked the public to help identify the shooter, who fled. Their Facebook post has been shared more than a thousand times, with many in the community angry over the cruel attack.
“We have got several leads and it all seems to be directed at one person,” a public safety official told WFXR’s sister station.
After turning himself in, Connelly was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon and two counts of felony cruelty to animals. He was released on a $10,000 bond. He could face an additional charge of discharging a firearm within city limits.
Deyton said he hopes the shooter can forgive himself, because he can’t.
“I love you, DJ. I know he’s still right here beside me,” he said. “I know he’s right there by my side. I know he stopped along the way and he’s waiting on me.”
Authorities said Connelly has “an extensive criminal record” dating back more than a decade.