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Tiger Haven neighbor accused

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Sheriff’s deputy reports shotgun fired over his head at scene

By Damon Lawrence

A Roane County sheriff’s deputy said he had to scramble when shots were fired near the Tiger Haven big-cat rescue in East Roane County.
Toby Dean Rhynehart, 535 Dogwood Road, has been charged with reckless endangerment in the incident Tuesday.
Rhynehart’s property abuts Tiger Haven, which houses several types of large cats, including tigers, lions, leopards and cougars.
For years, Rhynehart and other neighbors have accused the sanctuary of being dangerous and a public nuisance.
Deputy Michael Self responded to reports that shots were being fired onto the big cat sanctuary.
He had to take cover himself.
“I heard a round fly directly over my head,” Self said in his report.
Self said he arrived around 4:30 and spoke to Mary Haven.
In his report, Self said Haven told him Rhynehart had been shooting for almost an hour and that debris and shotgun pellets were hitting her property near some of her employees.
Self said he was collecting witness statements when he heard shots being fired.
“I heard both the weapon fire, as well as the round travel above my head,” he reported. “Myself and several others nearby began to search for cover as the rounds continued to fly overhead.”
Self called for backup and said he turned on the siren and horn to his patrol car to try and let the shooter know law enforcement was on scene. The shots didn’t stop, he said.
“Once I reached an area in the fence which I could see from, I observed six males standing approximately 15-20 yards from the fence in a wooded area.”
Self said he instructed the group to stop shooting and told Rhynehart to go to his residence and wait.
Rhynehart was reportedly firing with an SKS assault rifle.
“Mr. Rhynehart then stated, without prompt, that, ‘If there was a subdivision over there, it would be a different story,’” the report said. “That statement indicated to me that Mr. Rhynehart knew that what he was doing was extremely dangerous.”
Rhynehart, 62, is scheduled to appear in court next month.
He was contacted for his side of the story, but calls went unanswered and messages were not returned.