Detroit pays $100K to settle dog fatal-shooting case

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Detroit is paying $100,000 to settle a case with a dog owner who sued after a police officer fatally shot his pet last year.

The city’s legal representatives agreed to the settlement in November, but the City Council approved it this week, said Chris Olson, the attorney for the dog owner.

“It’s yet another case in which the constitutional importance of police shooting your family pet has been recognized in litigation,” he said Thursday night. “There wouldn’t be a case like this without the Constitution. That’s the significance of it: upholding the Constitution of the United States. The other part of that hopefully is that police officers in Detroit will hear this story and be much more mindful of the magnitude of the rights that are involved here.”

City representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, a large number of police officers surrounded Darryl Lindsay’s home in the 11600 block of Strathmoor about 4 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2015. “Babycakes,” his female Dogue de Bordeaux, also known as a French mastiff dog, was tethered by a 10-foot steel cable leash to a fence on the south side.

Dash camera video showed an officer “walk towards Babycakes in her driveway to a position just beyond the reach of Babycakes’ steel cable leash, pause, aim and shoot her twice with his department issued M&P 40 caliber handgun, striking Babycakes in the chest area,” the lawsuit said. Records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicated the police officer “is heard notifying dispatch that the dog is on a chain and that he is going to take the dog down.”

In a police report about the incident, the officer and his partner heard from another officer, who said he heard five gunshots coming from Strathmoor. The officer and his partner headed to Lindsay’s home. Once there, the officer claimed “a brown dog charged towards me attempting to bite me.”

But in a dash cam audio recording during the encounter, the lawsuit said, a female police officer could be heard saying: “That dog got shot and had nothing to do with it!”

The canine later died from the gunshot wounds. Lindsay wasn’t charged with a crime; police failed to find a suspect at his home and “at one point, a Detroit police Lieutenant asked the numerous Detroit police officers why so many officers were present,” the filing stated.

It is unclear if the officer was disciplined for the incident. A court filing shows that a conclusion in a superior’s review obtained through FOIA was redacted. However, the report said a lieutenant verbally counseled the police officer on alternative approaches to entering private property for exterior searches.

The case involves the violation of rights under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from unreasonably destroying or seizing a citizen’s property, Olson said.

“The damages are for the shock and awe, the mental anguish when something like this happens,” Olson said. “You have to understand the limit of your actions.”