The loss and pain from the unjustified police shooting of Arfee in Coeur d’Alene last July is worth $350,000, the dog’s owner says in a claim filed with the city Tuesday.
Craig Jones and his attorney will give the city 90 days to settle or they’ll file a federal lawsuit alleging, in part, illegal police seizure of the 2-year-old Labrador, which died from a gunshot wound to the chest inside its owner’s van in July.
“I do think it’s a very reasonable offer given the history of other cases around the country, given the epidemic of police killing people’s companion dogs, and the failure of police departments to take this as seriously as they should and to rectify it,” said Adam Karp, a Bellingham attorney who specializes in animal law.
The City Council will discuss the claim in an upcoming executive session, City Attorney Mike Gridley said.
“I look forward to talking with Mr. Karp regarding this and the damages in the case,” Gridley said.
The claim names the city, the police department and Officer David Kelley, who shot Arfee through the window of the van, which Jones had parked outside a downtown coffee shop. Kelley said he fired because he was afraid of being bitten in the face by the dog when it lunged at him through a partially open window.
A city review board and an external review committee both found that the shooting violated department policy for use of deadly force.
Karp last year obtained a $100,000 settlement for a family whose pet Newfoundland was shot four times with an assault rifle by a Des Moines, Washington, police officer while it was running loose. In the Arfee claim he refers to comparable awards, including $333,000 for a Lab shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in 2009.
“This case is based on the value of Arfee, of course, to Mr. Jones,” Karp said Tuesday. “There’s also essentially the ‘psychic totaling’ of the vehicle, for lack of a better description. … So every time Mr. Jones would have to get into that van, he’d have to essentially re-enact in his mind the horror of what happened to his dog and the blood stains. Essentially it totaled the vehicle.”
The claim also seeks damages for “the emotional distress, the wrecking of his life, over this event,” Karp said. “And that’s where I think you see a substantial part of the damages.”
Finally, Jones is seeking punitive damages for errors police made. Those include Kelly firing his weapon in a way that could have jeopardized his partner on the other side of the van, any people who could have been inside the van or any pedestrians in the area, the claim states.
The police review of the shooting concluded, “The potential for injury to citizens, including a potential suspect in the vehicle, does not appear to have been factored in to the decision prior to using deadly force.”
Karp said if the city does not agree to settle with Jones he will file the suit in federal court because the city violated his client’s right of protection against unlawful property seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
“Honestly I don’t think there’s any dispute that this was unreasonable (seizure),” Karp said. “Internal and external investigations both confirm.”
Karp said he has advised Jones not to comment at this time.
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