Man Shot by Police at Altercation at Animal Shelter

Via  Dothan police officer shoots, injures sovereign citizen during altercation outside animal shelter

Dothan police officer shot and injured a man during an altercation outside the Dothan City Animal Shelter Tuesday afternoon.

The shooting occurred after an officer responded to a disorderly conduct complaint at the animal shelter located on Jerry Drive at around 12:30 p.m., Dothan Police Sgt. Maurice Eggleston said.

Robert Lawrence, a sovereign citizen, was attempting to turn over a stray animal, he said. Lawrence became disorderly after he was told he couldn’t leave the animal without producing identification.

“After repeatedly being told to calm down, Lawrence was advised he was being placed under arrest,” Eggleston said. “A physical altercation ensued, to which Lawrence was shot in the abdomen.”

Lawrence later died from his wounds.

In addition to being a “sovereign citizen” (i.e., one who does not recognize the government’s legitimate role over things like ID) Lawrence also had a protection orders issued against him by two women with whom he had children.

I must confess general agreement with Nick Gillespie assessment at Reason:

The details above (including the whole “sovereign citizen” business) paint a brief but compelling portrait of an preternaturally angry man who would not be slow to talk back to cops or escalate a confrontation.

Yet that explains very little, especially when there’s a dead body on the floor. Leaving aside the bizarre (to me, anyway) requirement that you show a government I.D. to drop off a stray cat anywhere, this is a major WTF: If cops can’t defuse this sort of situation peacefully—or with something well short of lethal violence—they don’t deserve to be wearing badges.

The reports do not detail exactly what Lawrence did, or exactly how the situation escalated to an arrest, so perhaps there are facts that would clarify the situation.  Still, based on what has been reported it is difficult to understand how dropping off a stray cat culminates in a dead body.  It certainly does seem to be yet another example that raises questions about the ability of some members of law enforcement to deal with low level offenses.

FILED UNDER: Open Forum,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. James says:

    I don’t even know why we give them tasers and pepper spray if they’re not going to use them.

  2. TodaysAmerican says:

    The ID requirement seems perfectly reasonable to me; this “good Samaritan ” act may not have been what it seemed. If the “sovereign citizen” had harmed someone in the process of dropping off the kitty/bomb/bio weapon , we would not know who to go looking for. These rules are for the protection of us all.

  3. James says:

    @TodaysAmerican: That makes sense. In my state, among others, you can drop off a baby up to a year old at any hospital, fire station or police department with no questions asked but ID for dropping off stray cats is pivotal in keeping us all safe.

  4. @James: Well, you never know when a kitty has been weaponized.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    I agree with Gillespie’s first paragraph. His second is complete nonsense; the cat may be someone else’s beloved pet, the shelter gets to set it’s own rules, it’s hard to deal with crazy.

    “Sovereign citizen” pretty much means white libertarian. I can see how Gillespie may be having trouble processing this.

  6. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I have three cats. All it takes to weaponize them is the wrong bag of dry food…

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Our local shelter (city pound, no kill) only accepts strays from residents of the city of Sullivan. As one who lives well outside the city limits, I am therefor barred from dropping animals off at the pound. The pound is for the use of, and supported by taxes on, the city residents. Hence, “ID, please.”

    I certainly don’t like it, like just the other day when somebody dumped a pit bull on my property and I had no place to go with the poor animal, but I certainly understand why the City of Sullivan MO does not want to become the repository for every unwanted and dumped animal in the eastern part of MO.

  8. PJ says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Well, you never know when a kitty has been weaponized.

    I’m sorry, but this is a serious matter.

    Rocket-Propelled Cats and Other Feline Weapons of War:

    Hell hath no fury like a rocket-propelled cat. The feline you see in this drawing – the one with the rocket strapped to its back – is from an anonymous 16th Century German manuscript on explosives and other weapons, according to Australian blogger BibliOdyssey.

    And more.

  9. @OzarkHillbilly: i can see how a given shelter would not want to be a dumping ground for animals that it might be able to afford to attend to.

  10. @PJ: Excellent.

  11. Slugger says:

    The weapon kitty remarks are all quite funny, but let’s not forget that a man was killed during a disturbance with the police. The referenced articles make no mention of a weapon. It is not clear how many officers were on the scene. Personally, I think a cop should be expected to take a punch or two and even let the guy walk with the intent of getting reinforcements and pursuing the bad guy soon afterwards. I don’t think that failure to cooperate, even to the point of fisticuffs, merits a bullet.
    Would all of us be less safe if cops did not carry firearms routinely? I would be interested in hearing from countries where the ordinary cop on the beat doesn’t pack heat. Aren’t actual shootouts pretty rare?

  12. James Pearce says:

    I wonder if the person who called the police regrets it. I doubt it.

    I think Americans are perfectly okay with police using deadly force on the unruly.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce: The person probably does regret calling the cops. Shouldn’t. You’re responsible for the reasonably foreseeable results of your actions. No way the person who called could or should have anticipated that the cop and/or the “sovereign citizen” would blow it up into a fatal situation.

    Said “sovereign citizen” should have either shown ID or taken the cat and left. Having the cops called is a foreseeable consequence of creating a disturbance over routine rules. And I haven’t seen any of the usual commentary that once the cop arrives you’re supposed to go all “yessuh, nosuh” and do what your told. Why do you suppose that is?

  14. Grewgills says:

    This man should not have been shot and certainly should not be dead, but I can’t help but notice how the “sovereign citizen” feels he deserves to use government services while not being beholden in any way to said government.

  15. Anonne says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:


    Methane is serious business!

  16. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills: It’s a kind of fundamental immaturity most of us leave behind when we reach adulthood.