CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Twenty months after being released from prison on parole, 25-year-old Joshua Whittlesey found himself back inside a courtroom accused of a new, unrelated crime.
Whittlesey's first run-in with the law dates back to a criminal charge in Granville County, but the new crime he's accused of committing happened in Cary on Friday.
Investigators said Whittlesey committed a carjacking, led officers on a chase, and then hit a K-9 officer. If convicted on all charges, Whittlesey could face upward of 36 years in prison.
K-9 Officer Dakota is recovering at a veterinary hospital.
Wake County Judge Eric Chasse presided over Whittlesey's first appearance Tuesday, which lasted just a few minutes.
Whittlesey told the judge he was in the process of hiring his own attorney, but had yet to officially retain representation. Instead, Judge Chasse assigned Whittlesey a public defender to begin legal services.
"If the guy hit a cop dog, then he needs to pay for it," said Cary resident David Leach. Leach is a frequent customer of Bliss convenience store in Cary where police encountered Whittlesey following his alleged carjacking. Whittlesey, however, was able to get away and make it about 60 miles away to Burlington before being arrested.
"I just wanted to make sure that the officer, the K-9 owner, my prayers are with him," Leach said. "My prayers are with the dog first and foremost, because the guy that did this does not have my sympathy."
Whittlesey will be back in Wake County court on Aug. 15.
"Any dog, any pet, when it comes to animals, I sacrifice everything to try to help," said Leach. "But when a cop and a K-9 is in service, what are you supposed to do? Slap him on the hand? Make him hurt for what he did."