ASHEVILLE - A former Transylvania County Sheriff’s deputy was found guilty of assault in Buncombe County Superior Court July 21, more than two years after his K-9 latched onto the neck of a suspect during an arrest.
After being in a deadlock for most of the day, the jury found Joshua Kory Jones, 31, guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, a Class A misdemeanor. Jones was originally on trial for a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, after the SBI investigated allegations of excessive force in 2021, agency spokesperson Angie Grube told the Citizen Times July 21.
Jones, who will be transferred to Transylvania County, was given a suspended sentence of 30 days and placed on 12 months of supervised probation by Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Grant. The court ordered Jones to complete 25 hours of community service, and once completed, the rest of his probation will be unsupervised.
In February 2021, Dominique Lamar Fore, now 32, of Weaverville, was riding in the passenger seat of a car speeding at 126 mph through three different counties with his then-girlfriend, Haily Young, at the wheel, according to court proceedings. Pursuing their car were about 10 police cars from several different agencies, including the U.S. Marshals, Transylvania County Sheriff’s Department, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department and Henderson County Sheriff’s Department. Jones drove the leading car in pursuit.
Fore was being investigated by the U.S. Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force and was wanted for an assault in a Transylvania County hotel the day before the pursuit occurred, according to defense attorney Eugene Ellison.
Young and Fore got into a vehicle collision off Brevard Road by the Toyota Dealership, where about 15 to 20 officers were on scene to arrest the two suspects during an operation that several officers called “chaotic” while testifying in court.
“It was unorganized chaos,” Jones said on the stand July 20. “It was one of the worst operations I’ve ever been a part of.”
In bodycam footage shown in court June 20, multiple officers are shown surrounding Fore with hands on him when Jones took his K-9, named Micks, out of his vehicle and yelled “dog, dog, dog.”
During the arrest, an officer stumbled, and Fore’s arm got stuck in a seatbelt, which was in the process of being cut by an officer named Caleb Smith while Jones was approaching the car, according to court proceedings. Jones is then seen approaching Fore in the footage, who is on the ground with multiple officers’ hands on his arms. Before Fore is in handcuffs, Micks appears to latch onto Fore’s neck for about five seconds before shifting to his shoulder. After seeing the position of Fore’s arm behind his back, as Jones testified in court, he then pulls the dog from the suspect.
"Fore surrendered and was in the process of being handcuffed when Jones ran towards the arresting officers, moved them out of the way and deployed his canine unit onto Fore's neck, left shoulder and arm," District Attorney Todd Williams told the Citizen Times July 21.
"I thank Transylvania County Sheriff (David) Mahoney for timely reporting this assault so that a complete and competent investigation could be completed by the N.C. SBI, securing accountability for Jones' misdeeds," Williams added. Mahoney retired last year.
"So that the many courageous law enforcement serving our community receive the respect and trust they rightly deserve, this office is dedicated to ensuring accountability when law enforcement officers stray from the law."
The defense argued that Fore did not suffer any serious injuries from the bite, Ellison saying he only needed a couple band-aids and that he refused medical treatment. But Brianna Fleming, Fore’s sister, told the Citizen Times that Fore was taken to Mission Hospital where a nurse, who testified in court, said his wounds needed stitches, the veins in his neck needed to be examined for cuts and he was prescribed antibiotics. Fore refused stitches because he didn’t want to be touched, Fleming said.
“When he smiled it looked like he was paralyzed,” Fleming said July 21, adding that the side of his face and neck were paralyzed for about a year and a scar can still be seen there two years later. “You don’t know what that does to a person.”
The assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, Kyle Sherard, reminded the court during closing arguments that “six officers testified that there was no need to take the dog out of the car and Fore was not resisting arrest.” In defense, Ellison stated that Jones’ supervisor, Lt. Justin Bell, ordered the K-9 team to continue pursuing the suspects and didn’t say to leave the K-9 behind.
“I just want justice,” Christine Fleming, Fore’s grandmother, told the Citizen Times July 21. “If my son does something wrong, he has to pay for it. It should be the same for this officer.”
Jones was a deputy sheriff and K-9 officer with the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office from June 2, 2015, until he resigned on March 1, 2021, a few days after the incident occurred, according to a July 20 news release from Transylvania Sheriff Capt. Jeremy Queen. Jones testified in court that he was given the choice to either resign or be fired.
Jones was transferred to the Narcotics Task Force and K-9 unit in Dec. 2020, Queen told the Citizen Times July 20. His final pay was $20.52 per hour, and he did not have any dismissals, suspensions or demotions because of disciplinary action prior to his resignation.
Jones testified in front of the jury July 20, saying, “If I had the benefit of hindsight, I would have done things differently.” The Citizen Times spoke with Jones and his family, who declined to comment.
Micks, the German shepherd that bit Fore, was sold to several different agencies after Jones resigned and was eventually euthanized because of a brain disease, Ellison told the Citizen Times July 20.
“For me personally, I took it as racist because when it comes up on the radio as an armed and dangerous suspect, they’re gonna say it’s a 6-foot African American man with tattoos,” said Fleming, Fore’s grandmother, adding that Ellison asked her grandson to “strip” on the stand to show his tattoos. “He lost his dad five years ago while he was locked up and the only way he found to relieve the pain was getting tattoos, which most of them represent his dad.”
Young pleaded guilty to three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official in February 2022 for the collisions that occurred during the high-speed pursuit, according to court documents obtained by the Citizen Times July 21. Young was also found guilty of possessing a stolen motor vehicle in February 2022 for the car she drove that day. Fore was not charged for anything related to the events that day.
"If I respect the jury when they rule my way, I've got to respect them when they don't rule my way," Ellison told the Citizen Times regarding the result of the trial. "But I think it's very difficult for me to swallow that a man doing his job ends up charged with a felony and his boss, who ordered him to be there, and they were operating in exigent circumstances, isn't held accountable. The facts speak for themselves, they were operating in chaos under no supervision. Maybe they need to look at themselves a little bit as to being better leaders."
The Transylvania County sheriff and the DA asked the State Bureau of Investigation on Feb. 24, 2021, to investigate allegations of excessive force involving Jones, Grube told the Citizen Times July 21. The resulting report, which is not public, was delivered to DA Williams, who chose to prosecute.
“I want to thank the DA, SBI, and everyone else involved trying to bring justice for my grandson,” Fleming said.
Ryley Ober is the Public Safety Reporter for Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. News tips? Email Ryley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support local, daily journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Former K-9 deputy found guilty of assault in Buncombe Superior Court