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St. Clair Shores

July 17, 2014

Dog owner suing city, officers for shooting dog

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

The owner of a dog shot and killed by police last year has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and three police officers, alleging a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights and her civil rights in the killing of the dog.

Police were called to the area of Yale and Princeton streets Nov. 22, 2013, for reports of a dog running loose in the area. The dog, Lexie, was ultimately shot by St. Clair Shores Police after allegedly charging at the officers.

But the attorney for dog owner Brittany Preston said that police dash camera video recorded an officer as saying, “The only thing I’m going to do is shoot it. I do not like dogs.” A release from the attorney’s office also said Preston’s grandfather refuted the claims that the dog charged at police.

“The Fourth Amendment limits the power of government to search and seize your stuff, including your dog,” said Royal Oak attorney Chris Olson, who is representing Preston. “The unreasonable killing of a dog has been found in a number of federal lawsuits to be an unconstitutional seizure of the animal.”

The complaint, filed July 15 in the U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Michigan, names the City of St. Clair Shores, police officers David Jacquemain and Jeremy Moskwa, as well as Animal Control Officer Tom Massey, as defendants.

The city reported in March that discipline for the officers involved in the shooting had been carried out. Massey was suspended for a month without pay and had no duties for a month, and the two other officers were disciplined with regard to the incident. According to the March 3 City Council report, one was counseled on his comments and the other had a letter of discipline entered into his file regarding his control of the scene.

The city also said at the time that the entire department will undergo training with regard to the handling of animals in the field, and the structure of the department will be changed to place the animal control officer (ACO) under the purview of a specific bureau.

Olson said Preston is seeking compensatory damages.

“We’re not in a position where we can bring her dog back,” Olson said. “The law recognizes that. The best that we can do is we can provide some money damages. The other thing … would be training of the officers to handle barking dog complaints so that the dog doesn’t end up dead.”

As of July 16, Olson said the city had not been served with the suit.

City Attorney Robert Ihrie said in a statement, however, that he has been made aware of the suit but does not want to try the case in the media.

“Of course, the city is sympathetic to any person who loses a pet. However, since a lawsuit has been filed, it will be defended…. Suffice it to say, however, it appears that plaintiff’s complaint is filled with innuendo, speculation, half-truths and exaggeration.”

He also stated that he believes when the matter is “held up to the light of day, only truth and accuracy will remain. When that occurs … I am sure the results will reveal not what plaintiff’s counsel requests, justice for Lexie, but rather justice for all.”

Olson said his client has been shattered by the incident. She was living with her grandfather on Princeton Street at the time, but she has since moved.

“She still does take care of him but she doesn’t live there anymore,” Olson said. “It’s upsetting to go through the door where her dog’s blood was.

“We’re here to obtain justice for what’s happened. We intend to do that and that’s why we filed the case.”