Los Angeles

LA Deputies Shot Dog, Let It Bleed To Death, Owner Alleges In Lawsuit

Deputies Let Pit Bull Bleed To Death, Lawsuit Says

A lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that LA sheriff's deputies threw a chair at a pit bull, shocked it twice in the face with a stun gun, shot it twice with a firearm and then allowed it to bleed to death.

The lawsuit claims that the 5-year-old pit bull, named Chico Blue, was victim to "inexplicable cruelty" after deputies responded to reports of a shooting in Pico Rivera on Dec. 6, 2012.

Following the controversial shooting of a Rottweiler by Hawthorne police last month, the suit says Chico's death is "part of a larger trend in which numerous animals have been harmed or killed by careless law enforcement officials."

"My office unfortunately receives many calls from people who have lost a family companion due to an unnecessary and excessive shooting by police officers," Jill Ryther, founder of the group Expand Animal Rights Now and the lawyer for the dog owner in this case, told HuffPost. "Despite the many horrific stories I have heard, the shooting of Chico Blue is one of the worst I've encountered."

Steve Whitmore, a LA Sheriff's Department spokesman, said that the deputies on the scene acted appropriately.

"This is definitely not the whole story, and we look forward to telling the whole story," Whitmore told HuffPost. "When people actually discover what happened, they will understand that we had to do what we did, and we will be vindicated."

According to the lawsuit, the dog's owner, Arturo Gonzalez, had no connection to the shooting to which deputies were responding, but was detained in a vehicle while Chico remained enclosed in Gonzalez's yard nearby.

The lawsuit described the subsequent events as follows:

Chico Blue posed no threat to the officers. However, one of the officers, apparently for his own amusement, picked up a lounge chair and threw it over the fence at Chico.

Shortly after, another officer opened the gate to the area where the dog was securely enclosed and tasered him twice in the face. Chico Blue yelped in pain and despite Mr. Gonzalez's repeated plea to let him take Chico Blue into his home, officers refused to acknowledge Mr. Gonzalez's requests.

After being tasered, Chico Blue staggered through the gate an officer had left opened. Even though the dog was already dazed and injured, an officer near the sidewalk drew his gun and shot Chico Blue twice.

The dog attempted to flee by jumping into an officer's open car door, where an officer kicked the door closed and allowed Chico Blue to bleed to death.

A "Justice for Chico Blue" Facebook page made two days after the incident had 99 likes as of Friday morning. The page has gotten renewed attention from another Facebook page, "Dogs Shot by Police," which posts about police shootings of dogs across the country.

A post on the "Justice for Chico Blue" page from February claims that the LASD is trying to cover up the incident.

"There was an official order sent to [Southeast Area Animal Control Authority] to preserve Chico's body for the necropsy and these a**holes threw him in the f***ing trash!" the post reads. "Wont be able to spread his ashes in his own front yard Major cover-up going on here, but we will not be discouraged!"

Whitmore told HuffPost that the department would not comment on specific details until the case goes to court. Ryther said that there were several eye witnesses but no video of the incident.

The lawsuit is alleging damages in excess of $25,000. However, should he win his case, Gonzalez is limited in how much he can expect to be compensated. Cameron Fredman, a local attorney with experience in cases of police shootings, explained that "pets are considered personal property in California, just like a cell phone or a car. That may sound heartless -- and perhaps it is -- but it's the law. A dog owner is limited in their options if their dog is improperly killed."

Ryther said that the main objective of her group, Expand Animal Rights Now, is to change that.

"Animals are not inanimate objects," she said. "They are living beings who are important members of people's families ... Until we force a systematic change, these atrocities will continue to happen."

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