Why Are Detroit Cops Killing So Many Dogs?

by | Nov 15, 2016

Why Are Detroit Cops Killing So Many Dogs?

by | Nov 15, 2016

A Reason investigation reveals widespread, unchecked violence against pets during drug raids—including two officers who have shot more than 100.

A group of Detroit police officers executing a narcotics search warrant knocked on Nikita Smith’s door on January 14, 2016. The only fact that both Smith and the officers agree on after that point is that, a short while later, Smith’s three dogs were all shot dead.

What really happened in the moments between could be a costly question for the city of Detroit. In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in May, Smith says the Detroit police executed her three pit bulls, Debo, Mama, and Smoke, without provocation. Essentially, they acted as a “dog death squad.”

According the lawsuit, Smith tried to tell the officers she was putting her dogs away, and placed two in the basement and one in the bathroom. As the officers burst into the house, Debo slipped back upstairs. The officers shot it as it sat down by Smith. Next, they charged into the basement and shot Mama, who was pregnant and backed into a corner. Finally, they moved onto the bathroom, where Smoke was closed in.

One of the officers cracked the door open, peeked inside, and closed it again. “Should we do that one, too?” the officer asked, according to the lawsuit, before two of them fired through the closed door, killing Smoke.

In the police version of the story, told through reports filed after the raid, the officers received no response when they announced their presence and forced entry into the house. Inside, they encountered a “vicious grey pit bull” that charged at them. It was shot eight times. In the basement, they encountered another “vicious white pit bull” that charged toward them. It was shot five times. According to police reports, the third dog charged out of the bathroom toward the officers and was shot.

However, extremely graphic photos entered into evidence in the case show bullet holes riddling the outside of the door and the dog dead inside the bathroom.

“They produce two photos of the dead dog in the bathroom,” Chris Olson, Smith’s attorney, says. “It looks like The Shining. The dog is in the back of the bathroom and just covered in blood. But their story is that the dog opened the door itself and was coming to eat them. The problem is the door handle wasn’t a latch. It was a knob. That’s how fucked up it is. That’s their story in federal court.”

After shooting her dogs, the police arrested Smith for possession of marijuana and seized her car under civil forfeiture laws. The charges were later dropped, however, when the officers failed to appear at her court date.

Read C.J. Ciaramella’s full report at Reason.

About C.J. Ciaramella

C.J. Ciaramella is a criminal justice reporter at Reason. He was previously a politics editor at BuzzFeed, and a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon. His writing has also appeared in Vanity Fair, Vice, The Weekly Standard, High Times, Salon, The Federalist, Pacific Standard, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Street Sense.

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