LOCUST GROVE, Okla. — A Tulsa Attorney has notified the city of Locust Grove he intends to file a federal lawsuit after police shot two stray dogs and left them for dead back on Aug. 11.
One of the dogs, now named Lucky, survived the shooting and went back to the owner’s property.
Tulsa Attorney Mark Lyons is representing who he said is the owner. He sent a tort claim to the city last Friday notifying them of his intentions to file a lawsuit. The city will have 90 days to reject or accept the claims.
The letter said in part: “Ms. Shelton’s dogs were killed by Locust Grove Police Officers for no legitimate reason as these dogs were not behaving in a threatening or aggressive manner and were not causing any problems in the community.”
Furthermore, the seizure and killing of Ms. Shelton’s dogs absent a warrant or some exception to the warrant requirement meaningfully and permanently interfered with her possessory and/or ownership right, title and interest in these dogs and was in violation of her Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment Rights under the United States Constitution.”
Lyons said what happened was wrong.
“We are going after the individual officers. We are going to sue the mayor and the city of Locust Grove on this for having a policy and procedure in the city that apparently allows individual officers to go out and pick up a dog, or accept a ticket on it that it [dog] is running at large or force the owner to declare it abandon, which apparently these officers claim gives them the authority to take the dog out and execute it and shoot it in the head,” Lyons said.
He continued, saying the owner recorded a phone conversation where the officers were surprised to find out the dog survived and admitted to shooting them. This was after the owner declared them as strays.
When the person on the phone asks officers if it was town protocol to shoot dogs the officers responded that is how they handle it, “Yeah. They were put down. That is how we do it.”
The former Police Chief Cullen Bean confirmed to FOX23 that the recording was his officers. He said his officers had been called to the owner’s property in the past for issues with the dogs.
“We have had constant complaints on her and tried to get her to come in and get a kennel license on the dog to register them to the city and she refused to do it. I should say she never did any of it,” Bean told FOX23.
The police incident report filed for that day details when officers showed up to the owner’s property after the dogs allegedly got out of the fence. At first one of the writes in his report that Deanna was upset about taking care of the dogs but wrote:
“Deanna has allowed dogs to stay there as if they were her own. On multiple occasions when the dogs were out Deanna has accepted them to be returned to her residents.”
Eventually the incident report said Town Mayor Jason Williams shows up and the report said:
“Jason asked Deanna if she would like to rule the dogs as strays. At this time Deanna declared that the dogs were now in fact strays.”
One of the officers then writes:
“Officer Hall asked Jason if we were to put the dogs down and Jason nodded yes.”
The other writes something similar:
“Jason nodded his head and verbally stated ‘yes.’”
The report then indicated that one of the officers said:
“I then transported the dogs to the City’s property on North Wyandotte and the dog were euthanized.”
Former Chief Bean said he resigned when he heard what happened.
“It is not something I could deal with and didn’t look like it was going to change at all,” he said.
Lyons said what the officers did inhumane.
“I guarantee you in cleat training, ‘oh by the way here is how you execute a dog, here are the animal control procedures where you force the owners to abandon a dog and you call the dog over, put it in the back of the truck and go a mile outside a city limit and put a bullet in its head,’ I guarantee that is not a part of cleat training,” said Lyons.
The mayor has maintained that he never ordered the shooting of the dogs. He said it is against town policy and that both officers were warned.
Mayor Williams confirmed he received the letter from Attorney Mark Lyons but has no official comment.
As for criminal charges the Mayes County District Attorney Matt Ballard said he sees no imminent criminal charges at this point, but the investigation is open, and they will monitor any civil case to see if new information surfaces.
He said criminal standard is different because it requires willful or malicious intent and policy violations can lead to civil exposure or to administrative action to the officer’s employment, but that matter is septate from a criminal act.
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