Warren & Burstein secure $225,000 settlement for unlawful killing of clients' dog
Devin Burstein of Warren & Burstein, and civil rights attorney Thomas Robertson, are pleased to announce that a settlement has been reached in a dog shooting case, stemming from a 2014 incident in which San Diego County deputy sheriffs shot and killed a family’s pet dog in their yard in San Marcos, California.
After the United States District Court for the Southern District of California granted summary judgment in our clients’ favor – finding the sheriffs’ deputies violated their constitutional rights by entering their property without a warrant – the County of San Diego agreed to settle the case for $225,000.
While the settlement will not bring back the our clients’ beloved puppy, Odin, it has brought closure and recognition that the shooting was not only unnecessary, but also unlawful.
Since the shooting, our clients have been active in bringing attention to the nationwide problem of police-related dog shootings, on their Facebook page, Justice for Odin.
On May 26, 2014, around 11:00 a.m., two deputy sheriffs responded to a call of loose dogs. By the time they arrived, however, the dogs had returned home to the plaintiffs’ property. The property was not open to the public. It was surrounded by a fence, with a tall, chain-link gate preventing access to the driveway. The gate was closed and marked with signs reading: “no trespassing” and “beware of dogs.”
The deputies left their car on the street and walked up to the plaintiffs’ gate. No dogs were outside, and all was calm. Nevertheless, without a warrant, permission, or speaking to anyone on the property, the deputies opened the gate. They walked up the driveway and approached the house. One of the deputies tapped on the window.
At that point, three of plaintiffs’ dogs, seven-month old pit bull puppies ran out of the house through a side door. Almost immediately, one of the deputies opened fire, shooting one of the puppies, Odin, twice on the left side of his body. When he was shot, Odin was directly in front of, and no more than a couple feet from, the home. Had the deputy missed, the bullets would likely have struck, or entered, the family’s house.
Shortly after the shooting, Odin died in his owners’ arms.
On March 27, 2015, our clients filed a Complaint in federal court alleging unreasonable search and unreasonable seizure, in addition to other claims. (Case No. 15-cv-686-L)
On October 10, 2016, United States District Judge M. James Lorenz filed an order granting summary judgment in our favor. The Court determined the deputies had violated our clients’ constitutional rights by (1) entering the property and approaching the home with no warrant, and (2) failing to consider any non-lethal method by which to subdue the animals. Finally, the Court denied qualified immunity to both deputies because their actions were clearly unconstitutional. A copy of the summary judgment order is available here - http://bit.ly/2ip0rkC
After the district court’s ruling, the family settled with the County for $225,000. This is believed to be one of the largest settlements in a case of this nature. We are honored to have helped secure justice for Odin.