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Columbia County - More Animal Abuse Revealed Sheriff Hunter contributes to death; casts cloud of suspicion

Tahoe, 17 weeks before he was ordered shot. Photo by Brandy Emery

Every time a Columbia County Sheriff's Deputy gets out of his car he may be putting his life on the line. When a deputy responds to an incident he depends on his judgment, experience, common sense, maturity, human decency and training. Training is the one item that a deputy's boss, Sheriff Mark Hunter controls. The lack of training, the inability of this Sheriff to be prepared to deal with large animal incidents, and his cavalier attitude all contributed to the purported death of Brandy Emery's pet horse, Tahoe, on the night of September 5, 2011.

January 19, 2009 the story begins, "no note taking here."

On January 19, 2009, shortly after Mark Hunter was elected Columbia County's Sheriff, Neighbors' Equine Assistance Team president, Adrienne Hudson and concerned citizen Richard James met with Sheriff Hunter and Detective Fred Graves, the Department's purported large animal expert, to discuss the lack of effective policies and procedures regarding the evaluation and rescue of the County's distressed horses.

During that meeting Sheriff Hunter advised the participants that if they took notes the meeting would be over. Sheriff Hunter said he was working on a revision of the present policies and they would be available shortly.

Over the course of the next six months the Observer asked the Sheriff, from time to time, when he thought the revised large animal policy would be completed. His remarks were always that they would be ready when they were ready and he had more important things to take care of.

Ms. Hudson had also repeatedly asked the Sheriff for the policy. It was finally made available in July of 2009. The date on the purportedly revised four page policy is March 16, 2009. The policy is mainly a rehash of Florida statute 588, which deals with fences and live stock at large. The policy states the following:

The proud young stallion, Tahoe. Photo by Brandy Emery, 17 weeks before the incident. This is the horse that was "not well cared for."

"Running at large" or "straying" shall mean any livestock found or being on any public roads of this state and not under manual control of a person.
Upon receiving a report of livestock running at large, a diligent effort will be made by the assigned deputy to locate the owner.
If the owner cannot be located, the animal will be impounded prior to the deputy completing his or her shift, or with approval of the supervisor, the next shift will continue the investigation.
If the owner cannot be located, a designee of the CCSO will be contacted to impound the animal who will retain custody of the animal until final disposition. A 24 hour telephone number is provided for this purpose and is available through the Communications Center.

In Part I it was established that when Brandy Emery left the area where her pet horse was lost, it could be made out that he was on the back of someone's property and not in the road, or even close to the road. These facts have not been disputed by the Sheriff.

The Offense Report that Sheriff Hunter rushed to personally deliver to Linda Baca at Midwest Feed, seven days after the incident, had none of the redactions required by the law. Mr. Blaine Philpot's complete driver's license number and date of birth were clearly visible.

Another person in the report, Jordan Jenkins, "female," apparently the "trained equine enthusiast" that worked in CCSO dispatch, also had none of her personal information redacted.

Brown horse turns red- Sheriff Hunter covers his tracks - A steak dinner

In this Sept. 4 report, the second report of four prepared over the course of 16 days, Deputy Douglas, who was joined on the scene at Blaine Philpot's residence by three other Deputies, reported that Mr. Philpot had a "young brown horse" tied up at his shelter.

Tahoe, on right with another horse. "The meanest animal." Photo by Brandy Emery, March 27, 2011.

Ms. Emery's horse was not brown it was sorrel, which is red. Sixteen days later, on September 20, it appears the Sheriff decided to cover his tracks and send another deputy to re-interview and obtain a written statement from Mr. Philpot.

For two weeks, the talk in the horse community was that the report got the color of the horse wrong. Mr. Philpot's written statement took care of that when he called the horse "sorrel colored (redish)."

The police narrative got Mr. Philpot's name wrong, now calling him Blaine Hudson.

Mr. Philpot or Mr. Hudson even recalled what he ate for dinner on September 4, two weeks earlier.

The dueling stories - Shoot to kill

Sept. 4-5 (The narrative is dated September 5 at 12:15 am):

Deputy Douglas's narrative:

A few hours ago he [Philpot] and his family noticed a vehicle driving back and forth on Hwy 240 in front of his residence. He said it appeared they were pulling a livestock trailer and looking for an animal. They left the area then he ... found the horse eating hay from round bails [see photo for location] he has sitting in his yard. I canvassed the area and was unable to find anyone looking for an animal... I requested that dispatch implement their on-call procedures to have a live stock pickup man respond for the horse.

The Call Out List:
Three people were left on the Sheriff's call out list. None were animal rescue organizations, nor was there a veterinarian, that could have tranquilized the horse.

No one could be reached, including Det. Graves, the Sheriff's animal expert. Sgt. Jackson authorized "Jordan Jenkins a CCSO Dispatcher and 'trained equine enthusiast' to respond and take custody of the animal."

For three hours the trained equine enthusiast and the Sheriff's deputies claimed to have struggled unsuccessfully to load the horse into the trailer.

Then in order "to keep the animal from continuing its frantic and hazardous behavior [and] injuring itself" the word was given for Deputy Douglas to take his patrol rifle and shoot the horse. "One-shot was placed just behind the right ear rendering an instantaneous death."

The Sheriff's deputies purportedly left the animal's carcass on Mr. Philpot's property for him to dispose of.

September 6:

Sheriff's Deputy Joshua McCardle reported that he spoke with Ms. Emery. At that time Ms. Emery purportedly told Deputy McCardle that her horse had behavioral problems. Deputy McCardle continued stating that Ms. Emery told him that she attempted to load the horse into an unknown person's trailer at approximately 9 PM. The horse broke free and fled. (See couple with a horse trailer)

Deputy McCardle said that after checking with dispatch he discovered that there was an incident with a horse in the same area. "I reviewed his [Deputy Douglas] report and advised Emery that the horse had to be put down. Emery said she was not surprised and added that she was glad that no deputies or citizens were hurt."

September 19 - Another bite at the apple:

Deputy Jeffrey Watson was sent to interview "Blaine Hudson at his family farm." In this version the horse was found eating hay that was under his barn [see photo for location]. Mr. Philpot said he approached the horse with hay in his hand. By the 19th, Mr. Philpot had recalled that the horse was in poor condition, had a large sore on his left hind quarter and an uncut mane. It was reported that Mr. Philpot or Mr. Hudson said that the horse was not very well cared for.

Mr. Philpot continued with a story that truly begs the imagination, ending with, "Blaine said that he believed the Sheriff's office response was very professional." He said the only option for the deputies was to shoot the horse. Deputy Watson concluded that he buried the horse the next morning at around 7:15 AM.

The shot was placed behind this horses right ear

Photo Brandy Emery, March 27, 2011.

September 20:

None of the deputies, nor the "trained equine enthusiast" noticed the newly discovered information that the horse was "acting like he was starving to death" or that he was "not well taken care of."

In a written report sworn to on September 20, Mr. Philpot remembered that the horse "was eating hay we had for sale." Mr. Philpot said that the horse was not well taken care of. Adding "he acted like he was starving to death." Mr. Philpot and told a story about the horse's lead rope getting caught under his boat trailer, lifting it off the ground and slamming it into one of the poles of the pole barn.

Mr. Philpot now claimed he was injured during the altercation with the horse. Mr. Philpot said, "The horse was probably the meanest animal I have ever witnessed trying to load."

Mr. Philpot added his own ideas into his statement: I think everyone should look at the owner of the horse and find out why she did not call the Sheriff's department when the animal went missing.


The Observer has a sworn affidavit from both Brandy Emery, the horse's owner, and her ex-husband.

Ms. Emery swore under the penalty of perjury, that she called the Sheriff's Department and the phone was answered. Ms. Emery in the same affidavit said the following:

When I spoke with Sheriff Hunter again, he told me that the wires got crossed and it was all dispatch's fault because they don't have a record of my call. I told Sheriff Hunter that I thought that was funny, because Detective Graves knew exactly what time I called. The Sheriff didn't say anything other than, "I will have to talk to the dispatch manager and get back with you."

Also under the penalty of perjury Ms. Emery stated, "Linda Baca told me that Sheriff Hunter blamed dispatch for this snafu regarding my phone call."

Lane Emery, Brandy's ex-husband, swore under the penalty of perjury that Brandy Emery's horse, Tahoe, was in good physical and mental condition. The horse was kept in an adequate pasture with plenty of grass. That the horse was not removed for behavioral problems and that the horse was never emaciated or in poor physical condition and that he was cared for daily.


Where are the photos? Where was the body? Where was the Sheriff? Did he give the order to shoot?

It is unknown if Brandy Emery's horse, Tahoe, was ever shot. There were no photographs taken and Ms. Emery was not allowed to claim the body. She was blown off by the Sheriff and FDLE when she said she wanted to claim his body.

Sheriff Hunter is not revealing if any of his officers called him during this incident and refused to answer any questions from the Observer.

Sheriff Hunter is a hands on Sheriff. The situation had clearly had gotten out of hand. Did he give the "order to shoot?"

There was never an adequate description of the horse. Missing from any report were the facts that he had a white blaze, white socks and was an intact stallion, something that surely should have been obvious to the "trained equine enthusiast" or anyone else.

It is not clear if the horse's halter and lead rope were retained to return to the owner, should one ever show up, or if they were buried the next day by Mr. Philpot. If they were buried with the horse, they should still be in the hole, if there is a hole.

Every day Columbia County's Deputies strive to do an admirable job of protecting the public and keeping it safe.

Sheriff Mark Hunter has cast a cloud of suspicion on some of his deputies, indeed on his whole department, because of his handling of this incident.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On February 4, 2012, Rob wrote:

I have personally witnessed the sherifs department in action regarding a horse issue, and was amazed at the carelessness of the responding officer. These type of incidents are noticed by citizens, we are tired of the unprofessionalism we witness in this rural part of the country. the officers actions are directly reflected on the sherif. I have no confidence in this department, and would recommend the leadership be replaced by some one with more experience with rural communities. This ongoing ineptitude regarding live stock should be unacceptable to all who live in this community.


On February 4, 2012, Mallory wrote:

I've been kept abreast of this topic over the past few months and I feel absolutely disgusted by this entire situation. There is an obvious lack of proper procedure and this needs to change. I grew up in PA, live in MD, and have spent a lot of time in Columbia County, FL and I can say that, while things are far from perfect in all places, Columbia County appears completely backward and ignorant when it comes to all matters of animal care and abuse. All it takes is the right training and protocol to help fix this situation. There are people in Columbia County, Ms. Adrienne Hudson being one of many, that would be more than willing to help fix these issues. Those in charge maintain deaf ears. Their ignorance is purposeful and therefore their mistakes are not mistakes but rather complete injustices.


On February 4, 2012, Adrienne Hudson of Columbia County wrote:

      The tragic deaths of LCPD K-9 Officer Trooper, Columbia Sheriff's K-9 Officer Brutus and the purported shooting death of Tahoe by a Columbia Sheriff's Deputy were all easily avoidable.
     Since 2003, when I founded Neighbors' Equine Assistance Team, we have advocated for the emergency responders of this region to become aware of the specialized training available, free of charge, in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue.
     This is just the most recent episode in a long history of failure of leadership, cruelty and arrogance!
                            Adrienne Hudson, FounderNeighbors' Equine Assistance Team, Inc.


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