Puppycide

Police Agree To Pay Woman $750,000 After Raiding Her House and Killing Her Dog Over an Unpaid Gas Bill

The case highlights the dangers of using SWAT teams for anything and everything.

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St. Louis County has agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a woman whose dog was killed by police during a no-knock SWAT raid over an unpaid gas bill.

According to the lawsuit, filed by one Angela Zorich, members of the St. Louis County Police Department's Tactical Response Unit executed a search warrant on Zorich's home in April 2014 following an anonymous tip that Zorich had had gas and electric service shut off at her house, the latter of which is a violation of the county's housing code.

During the raid, police arrested Zorich and shot and killed the Zorichs' dog, a 4-year-old pit bull named Kiya.

Police argued that Kiya charged them after they entered the home, giving them no choice but to shoot it. Zorich's complaint says that Kiya made no threatening movements, and that officers shot her immediately upon entering the home. Zorich's lawsuit says that her infant grandson was in the house at the time of the raid. It also claims that an officer held a gun to her adult son Isiah's head, threatening to "put three" in him if he spoke.

Following her arrest, Zorich's home, already under foreclosure, was condemned and the family was forced to move.

"Mr. Zorich had really lived this case for five years," said Jerry Dobson, one of the attorneys who represented Zorich, to Reason. "I think she was terribly traumatized by what had happened when the SWAT team came in and shot and killed her dog and pointed semi-automatic weapons at her children."

According to neighbors, police were frequently called to the Zorich residence over domestic disputes.

In the days leading up to the April 2014 raid, police—acting on a tip that gas and electrical service had been shut off—inspected the outside of Zorich's home, marking it as a "problem property." Zorich later called the county police to try and settle the "problem property" designation.

According to her lawsuit, Zorich had a testy exchange with one Robert Rinck, an officer assigned to the county's Problem Properties unit, during which she agreed to have code inspectors come look at the inside of her home. However, Zorich said she needed to speak with her husband first so that she could arrange a time when he could be there for the inspection as well.

"It's hard to imagine when anyone would run and get a search warrant and send in a SWAT team without first at least calling the homeowner and saying 'did you talk to your husband, let's arrange a time,'" says Dobson.

Yet that's exactly what happened. The next day Rinck requested and received a search warrant for her home. Within a few hours, police were kicking down Zorich's door.

Zorich's lawsuit claims that the SWAT raid on her home was completely unnecessary given that officers had felt safe inspecting the outside of her home just a few days ago, and that she had voluntarily agreed to open her door to county inspectors—negating the need for anyone to kick it down.

Zorich's lawsuit also argues that the minor nature of the violations she was accused of should have forestalled the SWAT raid.

Indeed, if St. Louis County police are empowered to knock down a door for minor code violations, they can effectively raid a house for anything, leaving property owners and residents with little assurance that their Fourth Amendment rights mean anything at all in St. Louis County.

The chaotic nature of these raids also increases the chances of violence, given that officers, homeowners, and their animals are all thurst suddenly into a very volatile situation involving lots of guns.

Making matters worse, says Dobson, is just how little oversight is exercised over officers requesting search warrants in these cases.

"You have no supervision, no one to look at this and say 'is this a good idea that we're sending a [tactical] team to serve a search warrant for a housing code violation,'" he says.

Indeed, the overreliance on SWAT teams to perform ordinary law enforcement functions is one of the reasons cops end up shooting so many dogs in the first place.

Dobson says he hopes that the settlement he won for his client will help prevent these kinds of instances from happening again, saying the case will hopefully be "something of a wake-up call to other departments that they need to get their house in order."

This article was updated to include comments from Jerry Dobson. 

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  1. “”Police Agree To Pay Woman $750,000 “”

    Fake headline. The police are not paying as you noted in the article. So why the fake headline?

    1. Agreed, it should read that the residents of St. Luis County have agreed to indemnify the acts to the tune of $750K.

      1. No, it should read that the thieves who have put themselves in charge are stealing $750,000 + expanses and overhead from taxpayers and giving some of it to the victim.

        1. Well when you look at it that way, they are probably handing over a small percentage of their theft.

        2. I live in STL County. Our property taxes just went up last November because the police departments were crying about not having enough money and they persuaded enough lemmings to approve it.

      2. The police won’t pay SHIT, the taxpayers will. We need to ELIMINATE police forces nationwide. Why? They do almost NOTHING to solve, prevent or reduce crime, and, sadly, do TONS of killing our our Constitutional rights. The poiticians LOVE cops as they can be sent out to harass and even arrest their opponents, and just about anyone else they want to with little or no cause. FUCK ALL COPS, MAY THEY ALL GO TO HELL NOW!!!

      3. Actually, while the ultimate victim is the residents, the money first comes from an insurance company.

      4. If the residents and taxpaýers don’t want o pay $750,000 judgements, they can vote for officials who will use, and will hire those who will use, less heavyhanded tactics. The residents voted for it; they deserve to pay.

      5. If the residents and taxpaýers don’t want to pay $750,000 judgements, they can vote for officials who will use, and will hire those who will use, less heavyhanded tactics. The residents voted for it; they deserve to pay.

  2. If the police had to pay, we would probably see less of it.

    1. Your not going to change the police. Make the jackhole who signed the warrant liable. They don’t have a union to fight.

      1. I think the police have some culpability. This is an unpaid gas bill, not a hardened criminal cop murderer. A polite knock on the door would have probably had better results they wanted without the awful events that happened.

        1. As proved in Waco TX. The local sheriff had been out the the Branch Davidian compound many times, always arriving in a marked vehicle, in daylight, wearing full uniform. He was always greeted politely, and since the usual complaint was about automatic weapons fire, shown the target range and allowed to inspect all weapons to see that they were all semi-automatic and legal. The complainant usually was hearing multiple rifles firing and assuming full auto.
          Then the feds try to sneak in during the middle of the night wearing all black, and were treated as the illegal intruders they were.

  3. Hopefully, the hefty settlement awarded to Zorich will get St. Louis County police to reconsider the wisdom of no-knock raids.

    I know when somebody else is paying for my purchases, it makes me think twice about what I’m buying. Oh, wait, no it doesn’t. As long as somebody else is picking up the tab, what do I care what it costs?

    1. And cities often can’t do much about the behavior due to unions.

    2. “[T]he case will hopefully be ‘something of a wake-up call to other departments that they need to get their house in order.'”

      Riiiiiight…… Let me know how that goes.

  4. Democrats. Feh.

  5. 4th Amendment protects against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. Sending in SWAT for code violations that are a monetary fine reeks of unreasonable to me. Also why would you need to enter the home if the meters are on the outside?

  6. According to her lawsuit, Zorich had a testy exchange with one Robert Rinck, an officer assigned to the county’s Problem Properties unit, during which she agreed to have code inspectors come look at the inside of her home.

    The next day Rinck requested and received a search warrant for her home.

    The lawsuit makes the absurd implication that a code enforcement officer or whatever would use a no-knock raid to punish an otherwise compliant (if not wholly subservient) resident. Those tactical assaults are highly volatile as they introduce violence where none previously exists and put both police and civilians at great risk of injury or death. I never.

    1. My question: Does she still have to pay the bill?

      1. She’s got the money now. SWAT is probably on its way to collect.

  7. What are they supposed to do, NOT use all that cool gear and tactical training?

  8. Were they searching for the electricity that got turned off? Trying to locate the missing gas?
    WHAT was in that search warrant???

    1. Good question. Maybe it was just a “general purpose, use as needed” warrant.

      1. This sounds a little to me like a “Animal Kingdom” type situation where the local cops have been itching to get at them troublesome sons of hers

    2. Clearly the only reason to turn off the gas and electric is to avoid blowing up your meth lab. Ergo, the search warrant.

  9. Say, did you guys hear about that police shooting in South Bend, Indiana, home of your favorite presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttplug? ROFLMAO.

  10. I’m still fucking confused here… it’s illegal to shut off gas to a house? They raided her house because the gas was turned off?!!?!!

    1. Exactly!

      How and why?

      As I like to say, national laws can be a disgrace. But local laws, particularly those related to housing are just off the charts.

      We need the federal government to reign this in. We have no right to enforce mandatory utility services on anyone. Disallowing the storage or accumulation of refuse perhaps. But mandating subscribing to 3rd party, city designated, monopolistic disposal services? No way!

      I’ve dealt with local codes for years. All of them seem to start with
      “council has determined that this is a public nuisance” or similar wording. They rule by fiat. Just declare anything they don’t like a “public nuisance” and sic code enforcement on violators.

      In my town, council members got a bug in their bonnet about RVs and boats parked in driveways. Said they were ugly and created a bad image of the city.

      The irony? This city is advertised by the city itself as “the gateway to the Delta”. You know? Where the RVs and boats go to play.

      They mandated that they had to be behind a six foot fence in a side or back yard, out of public view.

      It turned out, the CA supreme court supported a similar city reg in a neighboring city, saying that the city had a right to address aesthetics as well as true, public nuisances.

      1. I’d be happy just to see a lawful requirement that after an incident like this or any others involving excessive force and brutality, that all police personnel be immediately tested for drugs and alcohol, especially steroids. I’m betting a high (pun intended) percentage would come back dirty.

    2. Electric service, not gas.

  11. Nothing to cut.

  12. Biden’s Crime Bill with 100K cops we didn’t need still paying dividends.

  13. “Hopefully, the hefty settlement awarded to Zorich will get St. Louis County police to reconsider the wisdom of no-knock raids.”

    Hope in one hand, shit in the other and see which fill up first.

  14. it is just a dog

    1. It had a name!

    2. You have obviously never had a dog.

  15. I hope the voters are in a position to abolish that county’s SWAT team. Any police agency that would use one for less cause than an immediate life-threatening emergency is not to be trusted to have one.

  16. When I read these stories it always surprises me that more American citizens don’t shoot more pigs dead on sight.

  17. “You have no [police] supervision, no one to look at this and say ‘is this a good idea that we’re sending a [tactical] team to serve a search warrant for a housing code violation,'” he [Dobson] says.

    So where are the Chief Of Police Jon Belmar, and the 5 members of the Police Board of Commissioners? Are they not supervising? I believe Dobson that they aren’t supervising the police.

  18. Time to start shaming the puppy murderers. it worked for “structuring” asset forfeiture.

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  20. I would have shared this article on Facebook, but there are 2 mistakes that I saw. 1) “Mr.” at the beginning of a paragraph that was referring to a female. 2) “thurst” instead of “thrust.”
    Reason has a lot of good articles, and have a good reputation, but Libertarians are constantly scrutinized, so I don’t want to provide fuel for the fire. I don’t want to tarnish Reason’s good record by sharing articles with misspelled words.

  21. What are police so afraid of? Another case in point, some cops are just cowards.

  22. Thanks, Police Good Work I Like This Post

  23. […] No knock warrants were instituted so that drugs couldn’t be flushed down the toilet. Did they think she could flush the housing code violations down the toilet? Police Agree To Pay Woman $750,000 After Raiding Her House and Killing Her Dog Over an Unpaid Gas Bi…. […]

  24. Police agree to pay $750,000…… Of tax payers money.

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