WILSON — Good Samaritans or criminals? Now it's up to a judge to decide.
Two Wilson residents have been charged with second-degree burglary after they attempted to free a dog from the city animal shelter so they could take it to its owner's funeral over the weekend.
But the plan went awry, Wilson Police Chief Felix Hernandez said. The two men spent time in jail and a juvenile was cited and released to his parents.
The mixed-breed dog, called Luke, was picked up April 22 by the dogcatcher after he was caught once too often running the streets of Wilson. His owner, Saundra Vickers, 53, died the next day from health complications, Hernandez said.
The word about town — and what prompted the attempted dog break — was that Luke was going to be euthanized after his owner's death, Hernandez said.
Willie Justin Miller, 17; James Thompson, 18; and Matthew Gonzalez, 22, are accused of trying last week to break Luke out of the pound in time for Vickers' memorial service Sunday, Hernandez said.
But things didn't go as smoothly as hoped. Hernandez said a Wilson police officer caught two men and a teenager leaving the pound about 2:30 a.m. Sunday with Luke.
"The door to the pound was wide open and there was a guy with the dog in his arms," Hernandez said. "The guy said that his dog had run away, and he found him sitting in front of the pound. The officer knew the dog had been picked up, (and) that the guy wasn't the dog's owner."
A man and the teen fled when police arrived. But they returned so the other man wouldn't be the only one to take the heat, Hernandez said.
They had turned off pound security lights and cut the lock with wire cutters, he said.
Rumor proves false
Miller told police Vickers had been like a mother to him and he didn't want her dog to be put down, Hernandez said.
"They were basing it on the rumor, and it turns out their information was false," Hernandez said. "We had no intentions of putting the dog down. The family understood they were going to get the dog back once they built the fence."
Miller, a juvenile, was cited and released to his mother. Thompson and Gonzalez were booked into the Carter County jail on complaints of second-degree burglary. Charges were filed Monday, records show.
Vickers' family didn't ask that the dog be allowed to attend his master's services, Hernandez said.