Police make arrest in deadly shooting of homeless man’s emotional support dog

MORGANTON, N.C. — Police in Morganton arrested and charged a gunman who shot and killed a homeless man’s emotional support animal in front of him.

The Morganton Department of Public Safety posted a photo of the suspect and his vehicle, a Cadillac, on the department’s Facebook page. Numerous tips came into the police department and authorities identified Markus Levar Connelly, of Morganton, as the suspect.

The department said Connelly walked up to the homeless man near Jerry’s Neighborhood Store on Sunday afternoon and fatally shot the dog, named “DJ.”

Bennett Deaton told Channel 9 he considered his dog a family member. During the last seven years, the two have lived on the street in Morganton.

Deaton said DJ growled at Connelly but the two were leaving when the suspect retrieved a gun from his vehicle and shot his dog.

“He got his gun out and pulled up on DJ and DJ cowered down and I said, ‘Please don’t shoot my dog. No harm, no foul. Just let it go.’ And he was like, no -- bam,” Deaton told Channel 9.

Connelly was charged with two counts of felony cruelty to animal and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He turned himself into the Burke County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday afternoon and was taken into custody.

Connelly has a first appearance in Burke County District Court on Wednesday.

Morganton Public Safety is still seeking information on a woman driver of the Cadillac.

Anyone with information should call Morganton/Burke County Crime Stoppers at 828-437-3333.