City of Houston claims immunity in HPD’s shooting of family dog
The city of Houston is claiming immunity from a lawsuit filed after two police officers gunned down a family’s dog while responding to a disturbance call.
Plaintiffs Wesley and Aisling Jones filed suit against the city, HPD Chief Charles McClelland and officers Sammy De La Cruz and Adrian Lopez on Sept. 23 in U.S. District Court for Southern Texas, Houston Division.
According to the complaint, officers Lopez and De La Cruz went to the Joneses’ home at 1339 Tulane St. in Houston on Oct. 19, 2012, to respond to a disturbance call made by a neighbor. As the officers approached the home, the couple’s dog, “Boss,” barked to alert their approach.
Both officers then drew their weapons and fired at Boss, the family’s pet of 8 years. The Joneses maintain that Boss made no aggressive move toward the officers.
When the initial shots were fired, Boss was allegedly still inside the home and the officers, who were outside, fired across the threshold of the front door and into to the home to hit Boss. Boss then ran around to the side of the home to his toys and the officers, intent on killing the dog, chased Boss down and proceeded to continue to shoot.
Boss bled to death due to several gunshot wounds. The Joneses filed a complaint with HPD, who ruled the shooting of Boss was justified.
Court records show that on Dec. 31 the city filed a motion to dismiss, asserting the defendants are entitled to immunity under federal and state law.
“The Defendant Officers responded appropriately to a reasonably perceived immediate serious bodily threat,” the motion states. “The Plaintiffs fail to allege facts showing that the Defendant Officers used unconstitutionally excessive force.”
On Feb. 2 the Joneses filed a response to motion, asserting the killing of a pet dog constitutes a “seizure” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, making their claim valid.
“Defendants Lopez and Delacruz did not have the authority to kill Boss in his home space,” the reply states. “Boss did not pose a threat and no warrant had been issued nor exigent circumstance can be claimed as Boss did not come out of the home until after he was fatally shot by these officers.”
The Joneses further maintain the killing of their “beloved family pet” constitutes a destruction of property caused by HPD’s inadequate training.
As of Tuesday, March 31, there is no ruling on the matter on file, court records show.
On top of punitive damages, the plaintiffs seek damages for their mental anguish, property damage, and court costs.
Attorneys Mark A. Morasch and David J. Batton of Houston represent the plaintiffs.
City Attorney David Feldman represents the defendants.
Case No. 4:14-CV-02728