September 28, 2023


So far, the only responses from law enforcement over their shooting of an unarmed citizen complying with all commands has been finger-pointing, denials, and outright contradictions. (Screenshot from “Firing Squad at 5 A.M./DRenegade)

Answers filed on August 28, 2023, from Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians defendants to a lawsuit by plaintiffs Jason H. Kloepfer and Alison M. Mahler alleging their “attempted murder” by the Cherokee Indian Police SWAT Team and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department directly contradict Sheriff Dustin Smith’s denial of being on scene when law enforcement opened fire on the unarmed couple as they exited their trailer on command with hands raised. Officers also deny knowing Kloepfer was unarmed.

This is not the first disconnect between what the sheriff has claimed and subsequent evidence uncovered, as a series of exclusive AmmoLand reports have demonstrated.

The first claim, reported in January, alleged Kloepfer was a suspected shooter who “engaged in a verbal altercation with officers and emerged from a camper trailer and confronted officers.” What little media there was at the time focused on (subsequently dropped) charges against Kloepfer of “Communicating Threats and Resist, Obstruct, and Delay,” and reported “SWAT team members were forced to shoot him after he confronted officers, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.”

That was directly contradicted by a video of the encounter recorded by an interior camera in Kloepfer’s trailer discovered after the sheriff had made his excuses public.

That report was followed up by two in February, the first documenting lack of major media coverage and presenting key questions left unanswered in the sheriff’s attempts to absolve himself and his department of any responsibility for events he set in motion. The second posting is a time-lined transcript of the Calls for Service Report and Dispatch Recording, highlighting the dangers of SWATting based on unproven allegations. Those reports were followed in April with a follow-up article that showed a new SWAT shooting video taken seven hours after the initial one and featuring State Bureau of Investigation officers, and then raised conflict of interest concerns over the District Attorney recusing herself.

The new contradiction differs from Sheriff Dustin Smith’s Jan. 20 press release claim that “Neither myself nor Chief Deputy Justin Jacobs were on the scene at the time of the shooting, so we relied on information provided to us from the Cherokee Indian Police Department.”

In Defendants Nathan Messer, Neil Ferguson, and Chris Harris’ Answer to Plaintiffs’ Complaint, embedded below, Section L.410 states:

“It is admitted that Sheriff Smith was present at the scene of the Property at all times that these Defendants were present at the Property on December 13, 2022. These Defendants are without sufficient information to formulate a belief as to the truth or falsity of the allegations in this paragraph regarding Chief Deputy Jacobs, so the same are, therefore, denied. Except as expressly admitted, denied.”

Which is it?

And the EBCIPD defendants aren’t above trying to give themselves plausible deniability in the shooting of Kloepfer. Among the statements that will raise eyebrows for objective viewers of the video:

They deny that he was ‘gunned down by the SWAT team.’ They deny that his and Mahler’s “lives are permanently harmed and disrupted.” They attest Kloepfer “appear[ed] to hold a weapon in his right hand” while acknowledging he “walked outside with his hands up and out in front of him.” They also say they were aware the deployed drone robot was being monitored, and “they were wearing intercom devices that included earpieces and a microphone connected to the inside of their helmets,” meaning police must have seen Kloepfer pick the drone up with his right hand.

This is what they want the court to order:

  1. That the Complaint be dismissed;
  2. That, in the alternative, the Plaintiffs have and recover nothing of these Defendants by way of this action;
  3. That all issues of fact be tried by a jury;
  4. That the cost of this action, including these Defendants’ reasonable attorneys’ fees, be taxed against the Plaintiffs;
  5. That these Defendants have and recover any other and further relief that the Court may deem just and proper.

The only questions remaining are whether criminal charges will be filed and what they will be, all predicated on an essential question based on concerns expressed to this writer by a local source monitoring the case that, so far, only AmmoLand Shooting Sports News is asking in the media:

What personal relationships exist between members of the Sheriff’s Department and/or members of the Cherokee Indian Police SWAT unit and members of the State Bureau of Investigation that might compromise their objectivity or present the appearance of impropriety?

Readers who wish to keep apprised of monitoring by local activists, in this case, can learn more at the “Cherokee County, NC WATCHDOG – Politics, Government, Law Enforcement” Facebook page.

The EBCI “Answer” filing and “Answer to Plaintiff’s Complaint” filings, merged into one file, are embedded below.


About David Codrea:David Codrea
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

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