Flint owners of dog shot in raid mixup sue investigator

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Two Flint dog owners have filed a federal lawsuit against a Michigan Department of Corrections investigator they claim shot their 15-year-old pet when authorities raided the wrong house.

According to the suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court, the absconder recovery unit investigator, several Michigan State Police troopers and a city police officer arrived at the home of Erica Moreno and Katti Putnam on June 18 to execute a search warrant for a fugitive who never lived at that address and instead was next door.

The corrections investigator entered the backyard of Moreno and Putnam's residence. Clohe, a 58-pound pooch, was going through an open back door at the time of the raid, according to the court document.

A neighbor witnessed the investigator "shoot Clohe in the face as she walked down the stairs to go into" the yard, the filing said. In an affidavit, the neighbor said the dog "was not attacking or threatening any officer at any time."

Officers told Moreno and Putnam they went to the "wrong house" and "would take care of this" as the owners rushed Clohe — bleeding from a muzzle wound — to a veterinary hospital, where a bullet and several fragments were removed from her head and neck, according to the lawsuit.

En route, another state trooper who wasn't involved with the raid or shooting pulled the owners over for speeding, then escorted them to the hospital, the suit said.

The mixed-breed canine survived but underwent three surgeries and lost part of her tongue as well as a tooth, the suit said.

The lawsuit alleges the dog owners' Fourth Amendment rights, which prohibits the government from unreasonably destroying or seizing a citizen's property, were violated. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys' fees.

Clohe's owners are "obviously devastated," Chris Olson, their Royal Oak attorney, said Tuesday night. "This is their family dog. ... She's not a menace to anyone. She just happened to walk into her backyard at the wrong time."

A state Corrections representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

Olson is pursuing several lawsuits involving dogs allegedly injured by police — including a St. Clair Shores case Time magazine recently covered. He said the incidents suggest a lack of training on how to handle such encounters.

"It's a huge problem," Olson said. "It's something we hope to be a change agent for."