The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said its deputies will be cleared of wrongdoing in a lawsuit accusing them of shooting and shocking a family’s pit bull then leaving it for dead in a squad car.
Steve Whitmore, a department spokesman, said Thursday that deputies did nothing wrong in the December incident in Pico Rivera.
"We look forward to telling the whole story," Whitmore said. "As we move forward and people see actually what occurred, we will be vindicated."
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday at the Norwalk courthouse, the owner of a 5-year-old pit bull named Chico Blue said deputies in Pico Rivera threw a chair at the dog, fired Tasers at its face, shot it twice with a gun and let it bleed to death.
The lawsuit alleges Chico Blue was "senselessly tortured and killed" by deputies who responded to a call about a shooting in the neighborhood on Dec 6.
Members of the group Expand Animal Rights Now said the incident was part of a larger pattern of law enforcement violence against dogs, including the recent killing of a Rottweiler by police in Hawthorne. That shooting, captured on video and posted on YouTube, has sparked outrage and prompted investigations of the officers' actions.
In the Pico Rivera incident, the deputies' actions were "so egregious," said attorney Jill Ryther, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Chico Blue's owner.
"This is definitely one of the worst [cases] I've seen," Ryther told The Times. She said the incident was observed by witnesses.
According to the lawsuit, deputies at the scene detained the dog's owner, Arturo Gonzalez, who was at his home but was not connected to the shooting that prompted the original call.
The home was enclosed by a fence and the dog was in the backyard, the lawsuit says. Gonzalez repeatedly pleaded with deputies to let him put his dog away but was ignored.
Gonzalez then saw a deputy "pick up a lounge chair and throw it over a fence at Chico Blue for no apparent reason," according to the lawsuit.
Another deputy opened the gate, walked into the backyard and "callously used his Taser on Chico Blue's face twice," the lawsuit alleges. Gonzalez heard his dog "yelp and cry in pain."
Chico Blue staggered into the frontyard in a daze and apparently confused. At that point, a deputy standing on the sidewalk allegedly drew his gun and shot the dog twice.
The wounded dog ran through a gate left open by a deputy and jumped into a passenger's seat of a patrol vehicle, which had the door open, according to the suit.
The document alleges that a deputy slammed the door shut and that Chico Blue bled to death inside. The lawsuit is seeking unspecified financial damages for Gonzalez for emotional distress, pain and suffering and loss of his dog.