Olive Branch police officers indicted in dog attack case

Published 4:49 pm Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Three Olive Branch police officers have been indicted on federal charges after being accused of ordering a police dog to maul a man and then attempting to cover up the attack.

The five-count indictment named Assistant Police Chief Scott Gentry, Maj. Todd Fulwood, and officer Adam McHann.

McHann is charged with civil rights violations for allegedly ordering the dog to bite and maul a teenager on March 8, 2003. Gentry and Fulwood face charges of conspiracy, witness tampering and making false statements.

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The indictment, which was unsealed on Monday, was handed down by a federal grand jury in Oxford. Olive Branch, in northwest Mississippi, is a suburb of Memphis, Tenn.

The officers were arraigned Monday before U.S. Magistrate S. Allan Alexander and pleaded innocent to the charges. A trial was scheduled for Dec. 17 in Oxford.

The indictment alleged that when another police officer attempted to file a complaint about McHann’s behavior, Gentry and Fulwood conspired to cover up the incident. Gentry and Fulwood also are accused of lying to FBI agents who were investigating the dog attack.

“Fulwood and Gentry allegedly pressured the officer not to report the incident, telling him, among other things, that reporting the incident might end his law enforcement career,” according to a statement from the Justice Department.

Fulwood’s attorney, Anthony Farese of Ashland, said the allegations against the lawmen were made by an “an inexperienced officer” who had been on the job approximately two weeks and had not attended the law enforcement academy.

William Travis of Southaven, who is representing Gentry, said his client “has been a good officer for 14 years. We’re going to go through this process and go the next stage from here.”

Attorney John Dolan, whose client is McCann, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Farese said the charges stem from a traffic stop. He said a 17-year-old, who is not identified in the indictment, fled from police. Farese said Fulwood was not on the scene when the teenager was captured.

“When the police finally apprehended him, he was in a ravine and he would not show his hand. The canine officer commanded him to show his hands and he refused so the dog was released,” Farese said.

Farese said the three officers were questioned by FBI years after the incident.

All three lawmen have been on active duty since the alleged incident.

“We don’t have anything yet to suspend them. As soon as we receive word they have been arrested, we’ll take action,” Olive Branch Police Maj. Don Gammage said Monday.

Gammage declined to say how long the officers had worked for the department. “We do not discuss personnel matters,” he said.