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Maryland Roommates Sue Police For $16 Million After Dog’s Death

Written by aslmad.yaz

Four roommates have filed a $16 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD), Maryland, for the reckless shooting of their dog back in 2021, among other claims, Fox5 News reports. 

In the lawsuit, the roommates accuse three PGPD officers of entering their Maryland apartment without a warrant, shooting their canine, subjecting them to excessive force, and detaining them without justification. 

The dog, a Boxer mix named Hennesy, belonged to one of the roommates. The pet was shot twice by two of the officers and tased by the third one. Sadly, the unprovoked shooting left Hennessy critically injured and paralyzed. She was later euthanized.

A violation of Fourth Amendment rights

According to the lawsuit, the dog hadn’t attacked any of the three officers before the fatal shooting occurred. Now, the four roommates — Erika Erazo Sanchez, Erica Umana, Brandon Cuevas, and Dayri Amaya — are seeking compensation for the death of Umana’s dog and the violation of their civil rights. The roommates released enough “cell phone video,” that, along with the “body worn footage from police,” is helping attorneys make a strong case for the violation of their clients’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Malcolm Ruff, one of the roommates’ attorneys, said, “This is the basics. This is like the text of the Fourth Amendment, the warrants must be obtained or you cannot go in.” He continued, “That is it. If there’s no exception, you are in violation of the constitution, and that is exactly what these officers did.”

How police shot, tased dog inside apartment

A Prince George's County Maryland Police Cruiser parked on the street at National Harbor police station. No other cars or people are visible. Roommates sue these police for death of dog.
(Photo Credit: Neal McNeil | iStock Editorial via Getty Images Plus)

The terrifying incident happened in June of 2021. At the time, PGPD was responding to reports of a dog bite at an apartment complex on Allison Street. 

Two officers arrived at the scene and located the victim, who said a pair of large dogs had bitten her. Shortly after, the officers went to the apartment where the canines involved in the incident reportedly lived. 

PGPD claimed the officers knocked on the apartment, but no one answered. This prompted them to get a master key from a maintenance man in the complex. A third officer soon arrived, and they all barged into the roommates’ residence without producing a warrant. This is despite video footage proving that several of the inhabitants asked to see a warrant before the officers entered.

As one officer exited one of the bedrooms during the unlawful search, the dog appeared. That’s when they shot and tased her. 

Sanchez, who tried to comfort the injured canine as it lay helplessly on the ground, described that moment as a “nightmare.” 

“I held Henney’s body, bloody body, while she was dying in her arms, while the rest of her family was wrongfully detained and denied the ability to check on her,” she said.

Roommates hope for justice as internal police investigation yields none

Officers named in the lawsuit are Jason Ball, Joseph Mihanda, and Anthony Jackson. The three detained the roommates after the incident without cause, adding to the trauma the group endured. Shortly after, Internal Affairs opened an investigation into the policemen. During which, “two of the officers were suspended and a third was placed on administrative leave.”

Despite the circumstances surrounding their actions, Internal Affairs determined the suspended officers could remain on administrative duty. All three officers were “found to have done conduct unbecoming of an officer.” Despite this, the third officer only faced a couple of weeks of suspension from duty and lost the opportunity to be promoted at that time. In what seems to be a similar miscarriage of justice, an inquiry by “the state’s attorney…determined no charges were warranted against” the trio.

The roommates bringing suit are hoping justice will prevail. Furthermore, Ruff shared that the group is pushing for additional training for police so similar incidents are prevented in the future.

Arguably, America is facing an epidemic of police killing dogs at an alarming rate. In fact, estimates from the Department of Justice show officers are responsible for the death of nearly 10,000 dogs annually.

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