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Detroit to Pay $225,000 After Cops Shoot Three Dogs in Marijuana Raid

The settlement is the latest big payout in a string of lawsuits over dog shootings by Detroit police.

Benjamin Beytekin/picture alliance / Benjamin Beyt/NewscomBenjamin Beytekin/picture alliance / Benjamin Beyt/NewscomThe city of Detroit will pay $225,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit stemming from a 2016 marijuana raid that left three dogs shot to death by police.

The Detroit City Council approved the settlement this February to Kenneth Savage and Ashley Franklin, who filed a federal lawsuit against the city and three Detroit police officers last July. The lawsuit alleged the officers shot Savage and Franklin's three dogs while the animals were enclosed behind an 8-foot-tall fence—all so the officers could confiscate several potted marijuana plants in the backyard.

"As far as I know this is the largest settlement of this kind that the city of Detroit has made," says Chris Olson, the attorney for Savage and Franklin who was represented plaintiffs in several other dog shooting lawsuits. "I think it was very serious matter, and the city's settlement reflects that."

Detroit has been sued multiple times over the past few years for police shootings of dogs. In 2016, the council approved a $100,000 settlement to a man after police shot his dog while it was securely chained to a fence.

A 2016 Reason investigation found that the Detroit Police Department's Major Violators Unit, which conducts hundreds of drug raids a year in the city, had a nasty habit of leaving dead dogs in its wake.

One officer had killed 69 dogs over the course of his career, public records obtained by Reason showed. That officer is now up to 73 kills, according to the most recent records.

Reason reported on Savage and Franklin's suit after it was filed last summer:

According to a search warrant affidavit, a Detroit police officer, while investigating an unrelated matter, observed several marijuana plants outdoors at the home of Savage, Franklin, and their son.

Two days later, eight Detroit police officers arrived at the house. Police were aware Savage and Franklin had a permit to grow medical marijuana, but the plants were in violation because they were visible outside, the search warrant affidavit said.

When Franklin showed police her marijuana paperwork and demanded to see a search warrant, an officer responded, "If you keep asking for a warrant, we are gonna kill those dogs and call child protective services to pick up your kid," the lawsuit says.

Officers detained Franklin and searched the house, but could not get to the marijuana plants because of the dogs. They initially called animal control but decided to destroy the animals, the lawsuit says. Officers shot and killed one dog through the fence, broke into the backyard enclosure, and fatally shot the other two. Animal control arrived ten minutes later.

As I've written before, while better training and policies for handling dogs might stop some of these incidents, until Detroit changes the way it prosecutes the drug war these shootings are almost guaranteed to continue, along with very expensive lawsuits and payouts.

Rather than scale back the armed drug raids it conducts throughout the city on a daily basis, Detroit has dug in and fought back against the lawsuits by advancing a novel legal argument: that if a dog isn't properly licensed with the city, it is "contraband" for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, and therefore its owner does not have a constitutionally protected interest in it.

Last August, a federal judge dismissed a civil rights lawsuit against several Detroit police officers who shot and killed Nikita Smith's three pit bulls during a 2016 marijuana raid.

Although U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh found that Smith's lawsuit would have been dismissed even if she had a cognizable interest in the dogs, he wrote that, "When a person owns a dog that is unlicensed, in the eyes of the law it is no different than owning any other type of illegal property or contraband."

The case was the first time a federal court considered the question of whether an unlicensed dog, in violation of a city ordinance, is protected by the Fourth Amendment. Smith's case is now being appealed at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, where oral arguments are scheduled for April.

However, earlier this year another U.S. district court judge rejected the city's argument and allowed a similar lawsuit to proceed.

Nicole Motyka and Joel Castro sued several Detroit police officers in 2016 after two of their dogs were shot during a marijuana raid. According to the lawsuit, police killed the dogs from behind a barrier while Castro was on the ground shouting, "All I have is weed. Don't kill my dogs."

The city argued that one of Motyka's dogs was unlicensed, and she therefore had no property interest in it. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow wrote that Detroit's argument "is misplaced for several reasons."

"Nowhere in Michigan's Dog Law is there language that 1) deprives a dog owner of her possessory interest in her dog simply because the dog is unlicensed, and/or 2) authorizes the killing of a dog by virtue of the fact that it's unlicensed," he wrote.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Beytekin/picture alliance / Benjamin Beyt/Newscom

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  • sarcasmic||

    Cops kill dogs because they know how much it hurts the owners. No other reason.

  • Libertymike||

    Permit me to differ: Some cops get off on killing the dog, per se, because they enjoy watching the dog suffer and die irrespective of its owner's anguish.

  • Rebel Scum||

    That and/or trigger-happy pussies with zero respect for property rights.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Let's not forget the boner-inducing rush that comes with facing no consequences for committing an act that would send a normal person to jail for years.

  • mondo_cane||

    Cops kill dogs because most cops are assholes.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    One officer had killed 69 dogs over the course of his career, public records obtained by Reason showed. That officer is now up to 73 kills, according to the most recent records.

    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Stalin -- fuck this man.

  • Libertymike||

    He's a hero. In uniform. He protects us. He is part of that thin blue line which separates us from chaos and mayhem and murder.

  • Libertymike||

    Would it be okay for a public school teacher to tell his students that cops are dumb shits who kill dogs indiscriminately?

  • Longtobefree||

    And then lead a 17 minute walk out?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    The worship of the military in this country is truly nauseating.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Mike, you're an even bigger punk ass bitch than even I had estimated. Dragging your disrespect for out military personnel over to an unrelated topic.

    It must be tough being such a big pussy, and being so jealous of real men. Mainly pathetic though.

  • Libertymike||

    You must really love sucking military cock.

  • mondo_cane||

    With a thin blue line like this, I'll take my chances on my own.

    Hero? The hell he is. having heroes like this we ought to not worry about the bad guys.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I guess I was wrong in the previous shoplifting thread, you can just pay some money to get out of a criminal charge.

  • BYODB||

    But only if you're in government or suffer from 'affluenza'.

  • Rhywun||

    Ugh, thanks for reminding me of that piece of garbage. Ladies, he's out in two weeks!

  • Rebel Scum||

    Detroit to Pay $225,000 After Cops Shoot Three Dogs in Marijuana Raid

    But did the cops make it home safely?

  • CE||

    Cruelty to animals is one sure sign of a criminal psychopath.
    Maybe Detroit needs some of those Florida style protective orders to disarm these potentially dangerous individuals.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    It's time we implemented amygdala scans for police officer applicants.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Or see how many can spell amygdala.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Who else would want to be a cop? Especially in Detroit?

  • juris imprudent||

    A poorly programmed robot?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Who cares if it doesn't work?

  • mondo_cane||

    CE: You are right. There are lots of studies that prove this beyond a doubt. And psychopathic tendencies are one dark subconscious motivation for being a cop. The other side of this pathology is to be a criminal. Two sides of the same coin.

    This is why there is so much "police brutality" a phrase used so often it's almost become a cliche.

    And for good reason. I've never even gotten so much as a traffic ticket, but I was grabbed and thrown to the ground and handcuffed because I put my hand on a cop's shoulder while talking to him about all the underage drinkers present at a concert. He said I had assaulted him. And my wife who didn't say a thing was shoved over on her side by a second fatassed cop. Incidentally, we are both 71 years old and obviously a real threat to these buttholes in blue.

    I've always respected cops figuring they had a tough job to do. I've has a couple of personal friends who were cops. But now. Now I feel differently.

  • BeagleMom||

    mondo....you are spot on....i too, USED to respect the police....they're here to protect us, right?? until you need them, and discover that YOU become the suspect when you make a 911 call, risk being assaulted and arrested, and otherwise abused at the hands of THE LAW.....

    we are nearing 60, and also experienced our fine men in blue (or in this instance, black) ...our local LE showed up to make THE ARREST OF THE CENTURY....our daughter, unbeknownst to us, sadly, had drugs....they had set her up....(when they did the bust, they found $20)....SERIOUSLY????

    anyway, when they showed up, fully armed and armored, my husband, short little fat guy wearing nothing but a bathrobe and his birthday suit, asked to see the warrant(s) that they kept claiming to have....and for his request, was beaten and arrested.

    we had an AWESOME young lawyer, who NAILED THEM TO THE WALL....tripped them up making all kinds of mistakes in their raid.....and WE WON!!!! was very satisfying to see the sheriff so pissed off at his guys....

    my faith in the law is GONE.....i will NOT call the cops if an emergence arises, i will take care of it myself.... don't need GESTAPO

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Two days later, eight Detroit police officers arrived at the house. Police were aware Savage and Franklin had a permit to grow medical marijuana, but the plants were in violation because they were visible outside, the search warrant affidavit said.

    Oh, you thought the trigger-happy thugs were just going to go away quietly when we legalized this shit?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Fuck this pisses me off. This family had the equivalent of a yard-maintenance code violation, and they sent officers with guns fully ready to kill anything that made a furtive movement.

    Fuck the police. Fuck them.

  • Frank Thorn||

    They killed her dogs because she questioned their authority.

  • ||

    Gran Torino, first draft.

    SWAT: Sir! We had a report of an unlicensed dog and illegal child labor on the premises.
    Walt Kowalski: Get off my lawn!
    SWAT: Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam!

  • Libertymike||

    One of the truly great unselfish acts of heroism / self-sacrifice in cinematic history belongs to Walt. Right up there with Rick Blaine telling Ilsa Lund that if she doesn't get on that plane she'll regret it, "Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. "

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    They initially called animal control but decided to destroy the animals, the lawsuit says. Officers shot and killed one dog through the fence, broke into the backyard enclosure, and fatally shot the other two. Animal control arrived ten minutes later.

    Besides lack of meaningful punishment, one common thread I see in police shooting stories is simply impatience. Jesus Christ, this guy should be ashamed that there are 3 year olds better at waiting. I'll bet when he has to pee he gets all fidgety and starts crying.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    When he has to pee he just unzips and lets fly on the nearest civilian. Two out of three times, the civilian says "Thank you."

  • Rich||

    "'Thank you', .... *what*?"

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    If he has to pee he just shoots whoever is at the closest urinal and kicks the body aside.

  • mondo_cane||

    He may become so excited and disturbed that he wets himself.

  • Rich||

    "Nowhere in Michigan's Dog Law is there language that 1) deprives a dog owner of her possessory interest in her dog simply because the dog is unlicensed, and/or 2) authorizes the killing of a dog by virtue of the fact that it's unlicensed," he wrote.

    "Nowhere in Michigan's Drug Law is there language that 1) deprives a drug owner of her possessory interest in her drug simply because the drug is unlicensed, and/or 2) authorizes the confiscation of a drug by virtue of the fact that it's unlicensed," he should have written.

  • mondo_cane||

    I'm not up to speed on Michigan's law about this, but Federal law supersedes State laws. And any transgression by anyone for any reason can result in property forfeiture. I'm talking about the government scumbags actually taking all your property -- land, house, cars, furniture, jewelry -- everything. And the pipsqueak AG Sessions is all up for that.

  • DFG||

    Amazing that there aren't more snipers taking out pigs like these. The one with 73 kills would be first on my list. He obviously goes out of his way to kill and I'm sure the other Blue Knights think he's a badass.

  • BeagleMom||

    omg....my thoughts exactly!!!! i would LOVE to have a sniper team at the ready at all times!!!! i would NEVER call the police in an emergency....i'd be too afraid they shoot my BEAGLES!!!! (ma'am, i was in fear for my life from these vicious, tail wagging dogs!!)

    there was a reason they call them PIGS!!!

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