Donations mount after homeless vet’s dog died. Police in NC arrested him for begging.

Donations are pouring in for a homeless Iraq War veteran who was arrested for what police said was begging at a busy Gastonia intersection with his service dog, Sunshine, by his side.

A Gastonia Police Department spokesperson confirmed at the time that officers Tased the 2-year-old Belgian Malinois during the Oct. 13 incident, Observer news partner WBTV reported. Sunshine scampered off. Days later, she was found dead, hit by a car, multiple media outlets reported.

Former Kentucky National Guardsman Joshua Rohrer, an Iraq war veteran, and his service dog Sunshine walking in Gastonia, NC, in October 2021.
Former Kentucky National Guardsman Joshua Rohrer, an Iraq war veteran, and his service dog Sunshine walking in Gastonia, NC, in October 2021.

The veteran, former Kentucky National Guardsman Joshua Rohrer, was arrested at the scene and charged with two misdemeanor counts of resisting an officer, a misdemeanor count of begging for money and a solicit from highway infraction, Gaston County Jail records show.

Rohrer was freed the next afternoon on $3,000 bail, according to the records. Friends posted his bail, according to a GoFundMe site that had raised $13,250 by Friday afternoon from 350 donors. The money will be used for Rohrer’s legal fees, housing costs and mental health treatment.

Rohrer suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, according to the fundraising page established by friend Gina Ramsey.

“You are not alone,” wrote a $25 donor from Texas, “there is an army behind you supporting you through this difficult unnecessary lack of human decency.”

“Been There ....... Vietnam Vet,” wrote another $25 donor.

911 call

Gaston County Police later released a 911 call from a citizen who complained about a man “using” a dog to get money, WBTV reported.

Rohrer denied the accusation during interviews with Charlotte-area news media.

He told WBTV that he was merely walking at the intersection, “smiling, waving and chatting” with passers-by.

“I fought for my country,” he told the station. “I fought for everybody’s freedom, and I feel like a freedom we should have is being able to walk where we please, as long as it’s not private property, no trespassing.”

Two witnesses to the Oct. 13 encounter told WCNC that officers “slammed him up against” a patrol car and handcuffed Rohrer. The witnesses said an officer Tased Sunshine after she nipped the officer’s boot, according to the station.

Rohrer was so distraught over Sunshine’s death that he “tried throwing himself in front of any car that he could,” friend and fellow veteran Dave Dowell of Shelby told Military Times.

At an Oct. 22 community rally, dozens of supporters lined Gaston Mall Drive near the scene of the encounter to memorialize Sunshine.

“It’s overwhelming to see all the love and support,” Rohrer told WBTV at the rally. “It is hard to process, but it is a blessing to see. It means the world to me and Sunshine.”

Sunshine’s death

In a statement Saturday, the Gastonia Police Department said it “continues to review all the facts surrounding this incident and continues to review the actions of all officers involved in Mr. Rohrer’s arrest.”

Police said they are limited in what they can say but divulged more details about Sunshine’s death.

After Rohrer’s arrest, police said, Gaston County Animal Care and Enforcement took custody of Sunshine and later released the dog to a friend of Rohrer’s choosing.

“That friend took Sunshine to a home in Cleveland County,” police said in the statement. “According to posts made on social media by friends of Mr. Rohrer, Sunshine left the premises where she was being temporarily housed, entered a roadway, and was struck and killed by a passing vehicle.”

“The Department fully understands the emotional impact that this entire incident, which includes the reported death of Sunshine, has had on all parties who are directly involved in this case,” police said. “The Department also fully understands the emotional impact that this case has had on the local community and on the United States military community.”