A North Carolina man was slapped with a felony charge after he allegedly stabbed and killed a dog in a park Monday while its owner was playing pickleball.
James Wesley Henry, 43, was charged with a felony count of cruelty to animals and is being held at the local detention center in Asheville on a $10,000 secure bond, according to jail records reported by local news outlet Asheville Watchdog.
Liesbeth Mackie, the owner of Beignet, an 11-year-old mixed breed, told the local outlet that while playing pickleball at Weaver Park in north Asheville, she and others heard the man yelling and arguing with himself before the “unprovoked” attack.
“She was peacefully lying in the shade – she was tied up with a very long leash,” Mackie said of her dog. “Then my [pickleball] partner said, ‘Someone’s beating your dog.’”
Eric Hulin, who was also playing pickleball at the time, told Asheville Watchdog that he “saw the attacker, definitely with all of his strength – with what I thought at the time was a closed fist – slamming on the dog, really.”
“I turned and looked at the dog and saw its last couple of yelps and twitches,” Hulin said. “It was covered in blood. There was blood everywhere. It took me a moment because I wasn’t sure what happened.”
Hulin noted that the man walked away as if “nothing even happened.”
Zen Sutherland, who said he was also at the scene, reported that he joined others who were following the suspect and saw him drop a knife on the sidewalk prior to surrendering to police.
Henry has been arrested 16 times in Buncombe County from 2010 to 2022, according to data reported by Asheville Watchdog.
Asheville Police Capt. Michael Lamb said “the guy killed the dog with a knife, basically eviscerating it,” according to the local outlet.
“We’ve had over the last couple of months, whether it’s mental health, addiction or both, we have seen a lot of that erratic behavior around town,” Lamb said. “Typically, this is not something we’ve seen in the Weaver Park/north Asheville area, but it is starting to seemingly spread out.”
Asheville has been plagued with rising violent crime in recent years that has coincided with an exodus from the local police force, which is down more than 40%. Asheville Police Chief David Zack told Fox News Digital last fall that his department is straining to maintain visibility after more than 100 officers have left since May 2020.
In April, city leaders announced a 60-day initiative to improve conditions downtown amid the crisis in police staffing.
Tom Mackie, Liesbeth’s husband, reportedly blamed liberal city leaders for the incident amid the surge of crime and homelessness in Asheville.
“The city government and the mayor have my dog’s blood on their hands,” Tom Mackie said. “Asheville is no longer safe.”
“The way our dog was savagely murdered, it could have been my wife,” he added. “It could have been a kid. The crime in Asheville is spreading out like a cancer.”