Officer loses in squirrel pepper-spraying, shooting case

A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit contending a Mountain City police officer was wrongfully fired for pepper-spraying a squirrel and shooting at it in a Dollar General Store in 2013, reports the Johnson City Press.

Officer Jody Putnam’s lawsuit, claiming the town and police department violated his rights under the Sixth, Fourth and 14th constitutional amendments and asking for $2 million in damages, was dismissed Feb. 19 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifton Corker.

In Corker’s written opinion, which included a colorful description of the Sept. 27, 2013, attempted squirrel shooting that quoted and cited Ray Stevens’ satirical song “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” the judge ruled Putnam was an at-will employee of Mountain City, and his firing, whether because of his breach of the department’s firearms policy or his refusal to file a weapons discharge report — both of which Putnam admitted — was constitutional.

…In his claim, Putnam said that after he was fired, the town gave accounts about the incident “to several press outlets and ruined any chance of (Putnam) recovering his 17-year career. (Putnam) could not get a job with any law enforcement agency in the country; due to the defendants making this event a national news story.”

Corker noted that while that may be true, it doesn’t set aside that his dismissal was appropriate based on the town’s assertion Putnam improperly discharged his firearm in a store and he failed to file the appropriate administrative reports for discharging his service weapon.