Skip to comments.Trial To Begin Monday In Lawsuit Over Dog Fatally Shot By Hartford Police
Posted on 05/28/2012 5:25:10 PM PDT by Altariel
Two city police officers are being sued on a claim that they shot a family dog in front of its 12-year-old owner after entering the backyard of her Enfield Street residence without a warrant.
Police claimed that a snarling St. Bernard charged at them when they went into the yard to investigate a report that guns were stashed in a vehicle there.
A jury trial is scheduled to begin Monday before Judge Robert N. Chatigny in U.S. District Court in Hartford.
Glen Harris, who is listed as the minor's guardian, filed the federal lawsuit in 2008 against the city of Hartford and two officers who were at the 2006 shooting scene, Officers John O'Hare and Anthony Pia. Pia is now a detective. Harris' lawyer, Jon L. Schoenhorn, declined to comment, citing the upcoming trial.
Calls to O'Hare, Pia and other police staff were not returned. The lawyer representing the officers, Thomas R. Gerarde, also could not be reached.
According to court documents, the Harris family had two St. Bernards that were "good-tempered and obedient" and "never bit anyone."
The 12-year-old, a girl identified only as "K.H." in court documents, had developed a special relationship with one of the dogs, named Seven.
"She felt she could talk to him and that he would listen, understand, and comfort her in a way that no one else could," a court memorandum states.
On Dec. 20, 2006, according to the memorandum, O'Hare and Pia walked into the Harris' backyard at 297 Enfield St. without a warrant. As they rounded the back corner of the house, they saw a St. Bernard, Seven, begin to move toward them. They turned and ran back the way they came, along the north side of the house, toward the front yard, the document states.
The girl ran around the other side of the house "in an effort to head off Seven's path through the front yard," it states. The girl heard two shots before she got to the front yard.
When she arrived, she saw O'Hare standing over Seven, who had fallen to the ground. The dog was breathing heavily and his tail was wagging weakly, the document states. She screamed, "Don't shoot my dog."
According to the document, "O'Hare looked at K.H., then back to the dog, and shot the dog in the head." The girl ran to the dog, screaming and crying, after which O'Hare told her, "Sorry, miss, but your dog isn't going to make it," it states.
The third bullet caused the dog's death, the memorandum states. The document states that the girl had suicidal thoughts after the shooting and was hospitalized.
The suit accuses the officers of conducting an "illegal search," calling their presence a "warrantless invasion." With the exception of the driveway, the entire property is enclosed by fences or gates, and there were three "Beware of Dog" signs posted on the property, it states.
But according to a nine-page incident report filed by police, O'Hare and Pia had received a tip from a reliable source that two handguns were stashed in an abandoned vehicle in the backyard of 297 Enfield St. They went into the yard about 3:20 p.m., and a large, full-grown St. Bernard "immediately began to bark and snarl," the report states.
Both officers ran toward the front of the house with the dog in pursuit. Pia was able to get to a sidewalk on the other side of a fence, but O'Hare ended up in the front yard "with the dog running directly at him," it states.
O'Hare was unable to elude the dog, the report states, which was "showing its teeth." He pointed his gun at it and yelled for it to get back, but the dog only hesitated momentarily before advancing again, it states.
The dog lunged at O'Hare, who fired three times, hitting it in the head and chest from 3 feet away, the report states.
Pia said the dog was trying to bite O'Hare's legs as he was running.
The report says nothing about a pause between the second and third shots or the girl witnessing the shooting a point the defendants are expected to contest in court.
The suit claims that O'Hare's actions were "so extreme, callous and outrageous that they fell outside the scope of acceptable police behavior," in violation of the due-process clause of the Constitution.
It also claims that they entered the property illegally and that O'Hare intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal fees.
A senior assistant corporation counsel for the city, Nathalie Feola-Guerrieri, said, "The city is confident that the officers will be found to have acted justifiably under the circumstances."
Thugs with guns. Just another street gang but one I have to support with my tax dollars. Despicable cretins.
The poor girl; I hope her parents will help her during her time of grief.
I generally like to give the cops the benefit of doubt, but in this case, they went into a posted fenced area without a warrant. Had they gotten a warrant, and or had the owners put the dogs up, this wouldn’t have happened.
It’s only a matter of time before a pet owner, wracked with grief, caps a cop for killing his dog. Then the sparks will fly.
Had they not trespassed, this wouldn’t have happened.
This **** has been going on far too long. There are only two ways it will stop. Juries will start finding for plaintiffs, or people are going to start looking for cops when they aren’t wearing blue.
When I hear of that happening I’m going to stand up and cheer.
The pigs will walk, they always do.
I’ll wager there are twenty to thirty times more dogs injured by cops than cops injured by dogs. The response by cops is way out of proportion to the threat.
How much trouble is it to obtain a search warrant?
Thugs are thugs, badges or not. They need to be put down like the thugs they are. I say shoot the guy just like he shot the dog, and use the “I don’t think he’s going to make it” line before the one into his brain.
People like this are just evil and need to be permanently removed from this earth.
I think one of the worst things that comes from this crap is that it erodes peoples trust in all cops. I wish cops themselves would internally take care of these people in their own self-interest, the way they need to be taken care of, but they don’t.
“But, yer honor! 12 year old goils always lie. Who is ya gonna believe, us cops or some lying little goil whose vicious dog attacked us? I was us or it, ya honor!”
What a mensch.
Clearly the dog was still a serious threat.
I think you're right. If the cop overreacts, as they tend to do, I bet the pet owner beats them in court. Temporary insanity would be the defense, I guess, and with a good lawyer talking to a jury, the party might walk out of the court, a free man or a free woman.
Police reports use language intended to make the citizen look as bad as possible.
I remember my ticket last year for going 34 in a 30 mph zone. The ticket stated that I was “recklessly traveling at a high rate of speed.”
Cops do nothing to prevent crime, absolutely nothing. Their entire purpose is to document a crime after the fact and to collect taxes from the citizenry through speed traps and minor traffic infractions.