Court rules officers justified in shooting barking dog during drug raid

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Editor’s note: While the judge ruled in favor of the officers in this particular case, it is not a blanket ruling for police across the country.

A police officer can shoot a dog if it barks or moves when the officer enters a home, under a new federal court ruling issued this month.

The ruling comes after police in Battle Creek, Michigan, shot two pit bulls while searching a home for evidence of drugs in 2013.

The dogs’ owners, Mark and Cheryl Brown, filed a lawsuit against the Battle Creek Police Department and the city, claiming that killing the dogs amounted to the unlawful seizure of property in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The district court sided with the police officers and the Browns filed an appeal with United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The lawsuit states that when officers arrived to conduct the search, Mark Brown told an officer he had a key to the front door and that his two dogs were in the residence. However, another officer testified that he didn’t hear about the comments before police broke down the door.

According to the lawsuit, Officer Christof Klein testified that when he entered the house, a large, brown pit bull jumped off the couch, aggressively barked at the officers and lunged at him.

Officer Klein stated that the first pit bull “had only moved a few inches” between the time when he entered the residence and when he shot her, but he considered the movement to be a “lunge.”

Another officer stated that “the amount of time between the door coming open and the shot was extremely small… maybe a second or less.”

Klien stated that after he fire the shot, the dog “moved away from the officers and towards the kitchen, then down the stairs and into the basement.” A smaller, white pit bull had also gone down into the basement.

“As the officers were descending the stairs to clear the basement, they noted that the first pit bull was at the bottom of the stairs,” the lawsuit states. “Klein testified that the first pit bull obstructed the path to the basement, and that he ‘did not feel [the officers] could safely clear the basement with those dogs down there.'”

“When the officers were halfway down the stairs, the first dog, who was at the bottom of the staircase, turned towards them and started barking again. From the staircase, Officer Klein fired two fatal rounds at the first pit bull,” the lawsuit states.

“Klein testified that after he shot and killed the first dog, he noticed the second dog standing about halfway across the basement. The second dog was not moving towards the officers when they discovered her in the basement, but rather she was ‘just standing there’… barking,” the lawsuit continues.

Klein fired two rounds at the second dog.

After being shot by Officer Klein, the second dog ran to the back corner of the basement. Then a second officer shot her because she was “moving” out of the corner and in his direction, the lawsuit states.

The wounded pit bull ran behind the furnace in the back corner of the basement. A third officer noted that “[there] was blood coming out of numerous holes in the dog, and . . . [he] didn’t want to see it suffer” so he shot her again, to “put her out of her misery.”

On Dec. 19, the appeals court issued a ruling stating that the officers acted reasonably in the case and the Browns’ constitutional rights were not violated.

“The seizures of the dogs in this case were reasonable given the specific circumstances surrounding the raid,” the court ruled.

“[It] was reasonable for the officers to force entry because they had information that [a known gang member] used the residence to distribute cocaine and heroin, and they did not know whether gang members would be in the residence armed and ready to fire at the officers,” the ruling states.

“[The] officers would not have used the keys Mark Brown offered to give them because the officers would not have had any idea whether those keys were the correct keys. Defendants’ counsel persuasively argued that Mark Brown could have given the officers the wrong set of keys, and the resulting delay could have given somebody in the house the opportunity to destroy the drugs or time to prepare to attack or shoot the officers as they entered the residence,” the ruling states.

Judge Eric Clay stated “a police officer’s use of deadly force against a dog while executing a search warrant to search a home for illegal drug activity is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when… the dog poses an imminent threat to the officer’s safety.”

You can read the full court ruling here.

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28 comments

    • Michael

      Good luck with that. Tell me how that turns out for you.

      On a serious note I’m sure you aren’t a drug dealer and I’m sure you, as a responsible dog owner, don’t have vicious animals. As such this would never happen to you.

      • Knock Knock Reality Here

        Are you implying that the police never search the wrong house? How would you feel if police unlawfully entered your residence because they picked the wrong house and then killed your family members (dogs. Lets face it, they are our family)? I think I would also shoot the officers dead for that act.

        • Michael

          You can make all sorts of hypotheticals up to come up with a situation that makes the officers actions not justified.

          Every case is determined by the individual facts of the case. In this case they didn’t have the wrong house and the actions were justified.

  • Truth*Fairy

    If it barks, Really? Totally ridiculous overreacting Nazi thinking and behavior.
    I mean, We all know Cops are incapable of lying in order to justify their anger and other issues….riiight? (Sarcasm intended)

  • Bob

    I have tremendous respect for our police force. But, if the police can shoot a dog for barking or moving when they enter the house. It seems like I should be able to shoot anyone entering my house, including police if they make a noise or move. The Federal Court sure was not thinking when they made this ruling. Of course, we all know one does not have to have common sense to become a judge.

  • steve

    Dogs are often protective of their “turf” because they’re trained to just that. And a search warrant for drugs is not a permit to kill someone’s animals. The owners may be criminals alright, but I hope they sue the city for their loss. I suspect the cops knew of the animals ahead of the incident and in the future, plan accordingly.

  • L.Loveless

    Are you serious? So you are telling me if an officer enters my home and my Boston Terrier barks or moves, under law they will be able to shoot my dog?
    My dog barks if the door bell rings or when you knock and will sniff you if you try to enter my house and may even try to jump because she wants attention and treats.

    They need to elaborate on this better. This seems a little ridiculous if you ask me! I

    • Michael

      They elaborated on it fine if you read the article. It’s ridiculous that the news phrased the article’s heading the way it did. It’s meant to draw emotion from the readers in order to generate controversy where none exists.

      No an officer can’t shoot your dog for barking or moving. It’s all about the details. The officers testified the dog was barking/acting aggressively and started coming at the officers. The courts will always rule that a police officer can take action to protect himself prior to getting injured if he feels he’s about to get injured. No court will ever require an officer to allow a pit to bite him.

      Keep in mind the police wont be kicking in your door to shoot your dog. This was done during the execution of a search warrant for gang members that were selling cocaine and heroin out of the house. These weren’t good people so needless to say these probably weren’t the nicest of dogs either.

        • Michael

          How do you expect me to answer that question without more information. I’m willing to educate myself. Do you have a court case I can look up to be able to intellegently answer your question?

      • lynnette1248

        This is bs!
        I have 2 dogs
        They absolutely hate hats
        AND UNIFORM
        ITS THEIR HOUSE
        COPS HAVE RIGHT TI SHOOT ON SIGHT WHETHER DOG OR PERSON ! We have way too many BAD COPS not enough GOOD COPS !
        Make we wonder if anyone is safe from their violence!!!!!!

    • Kurt

      If a cop comes into your house you better put tape on it’s mouth or he will shoot the dog. Cops have always been able to do what they want. They will always be able to justify their actions. Remember, only two kinds of cops, crooked and unemployed. Don’t ever call the police, handle it yourself. The moment the police arrive, the victim becomes the criminal. Everyone remember this. The police force wasn’t formed so they could help the public, they were formed to get criminals off the streets. Police don’t separate the two. FTP!

  • Gary Moreland

    These officers were not justified in shooting these dogs. This just goes to show you that the police are off the hook when they do stuff like this. It also shows how perverted and unjust our justice system has come become. I hope everyone with any Common Sense speaks out about this atrocity so that it never happens again

    • Michael

      “These officers were not justified in shooting these dogs.”

      Sorry but the US court of appeals disagrees.

      I’m kind of curious what alternative you propose for this situation. In a situation where time matters and subjects may be in the house arming themselves and/or flushing all the drugs what safe and timely alternative did these officers have to deal with these aggressive dogs that wouldn’t let them safely search the home?

    • Allison

      Are all pit bulls danergous? Because I’ve own all and only pitbulls and they are great with children, babies, other dogs and my family. Never once had a issue. It’s how they are RAISED!

      • Michael

        No that’s not what was said. Pits are dangerous. Remember dangerous is only an ability to cause harm. The nicest dog in the world still has the jaw strength to do harm if it needed to.

        While whether or not the dog is vicious has to do with how it’s raised the breed, due to it’s bite/jaw strength has the ability to do significantly more harm when it does bite than an ankle biter. Aka pits are dangerous.

      • Michael

        You are confusing dangerous and vicious. The two words don’t mean the same.

        Dangerous is able to cause harm. Vicious is deliberately violent.

        By definition Pits are dangerous as their jaw strength gives them the ABILITY to cause harm -even if they don’t use that ability.

  • Fuckyoublucocks

    More IMPORTANTLY… I HAVE THE RIGHT TO PROTECT MY PROPERTY. (my dog)..and MY FAMILY (my dog)…… one of them blu cocks points his gun at my dog.. ill be having MINE pointed at him.. Well see how much he wants that dog dead. .005ms after he pulls that trigger. its gonna be COP DOWN.. I PROMISE YOU THAT

    • Michael

      Come on use your head. This is nothing new. It’s been this way for over 20 years. Why the threats?

      How many times has an officer kicked in your door and pointed a gun at your dog? This just isn’t done without good reason. Just because the court dismissed this lawsuit doesn’t mean they are going to be out doing it on a regular basis.

      The news loves creating drama between the police and the general public. Their ratings thrive off of it. Unfortunately you fell for the bait.

  • Ken

    I don’t care what the courts rule if the police kick in my door my dogs going to act aggressive but she would never bite and even if she did if they shot my dog someone better call the corner cause people are going to die!!!