Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included information from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office that did not totally reflect the verdict a jury returned in the case. The story has been updated to reflect that verdict more clearly.
A Spokane jury last week rejected civil claims by a Grant County man that a sheriff’s deputy acted maliciously when he shot and killed his dog during a traffic stop in a Moses Lake park four years ago.
The owner, Nicholas Criscuolo, sued the county and Deputy Beau Lamens, claiming that in killing his seven-year-old dog, Slyder, the county deprived him of his constitutional property rights. Criscuolo also accused Lamens of maliciously injuring Slyder and assault.
The County said Slyder was a Rottweiler and pit bull mix, but the defendants disputed that claim.
More than four years after the shooting, a jury in U.S. District Court in Spokane last week ruled against Criscuolo, though they did award a judgment of a little more than $3,800. That money was given to cover the costs of a burial and the “intrinsic value” of the dog, according to court documents.
According to the jury instructions in the case, jurors found the dog was “willfully destroyed … without lawful justification.”
Criscuolo said he brought Slyder and another dog to Neppel Landing, a park near the waterfront, on Jan. 24, 2010. He asked permission to run the dogs off the leash from another deputy, who reportedly responded, “What do I care?” Lamens was making a traffic stop at a nearby intersection and planned to search a man’s car for methamphetamine using his police dog, Maddox.
Maddox and Slyder approached each other. Criscuolo said Slyder was acting friendly with the police dog snapping at him from his leash. Lamens testified that Slyder charged he and Maddox and that he tried nonlethal measures to keep Slyder at bay, including kicking him.
Lamens fired multiple rounds, killing Slyder, according to court documents.
The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office handled a criminal investigation of the matter, concluding no charges were warranted against Lamens. Criscuolo then filed a civil lawsuit in December 2010, culminating in last week’s jury trial in Spokane.
Kevin King, a K9 trainer with the Spokane Police Department, testified at trial that using a stun gun or mace against an attacking animal is ineffective, according to a news release from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office. Defendants offered expert testimony that disputed those claims.
“I feel sad for Mr. Criscuolo’s loss of a pet, but the fact remains that had Mr. Criscuolo obeyed the law and kept his dog on a leash while visiting a public park, his dog would not have attacked an on-duty police dog and Mr. Criscuolo’s dog would still be alive today,” said Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones in a written statement.