Authorities who went to the wrong house in search of a wanted fugitive and shot a beloved family pet are refusing to take responsibility for their actions, according to a Michigan attorney who has filed a lawsuit against them.
"These officers came into the wrong house, shot this dog, told the owners they would take care of it and then never returned their calls," Royal Oak attorney Chris Olson told The Huffington Post.
Olson is representing Erica Moreno and Katti Putnam. The couple's 15-year-old mixed breed dog, Clohe, was shot in the face during the mistaken police raid, Olson said.
Clohe survived the shooting, but has had to endure three surgeries, and lost part of her tongue and a canine tooth.
"Clohe's not been the same since," Putnam told HuffPost. "It really angers me and makes me concerned for the system and how things work."
On Oct. 3, Olson filed a federal lawsuit against Michigan Department of Corrections investigator Ron Hughes. The lawsuit alleges that in shooting Clohe, the defendant violated Moreno and Putnam's Fourth Amendment rights.
According to Putnam, the events leading up to the shooting began on June 18 when Hughes, along with several Michigan State troopers, went to Moreno and Putnam's home to recover a wanted fugitive.
"It was a hot day, the windows and back door were open, and I was sitting inside reading a book," Putnam said.
The peaceful summer day was interrupted by a loud bang at the front door.
"The next thing I knew there was a tactical team surrounding our house," Putnam said. "I went onto the front porch and they said they were looking for a fugitive. I was answering their questions when an officer looked at the address on our house and said, 'We're at the wrong house.'"
According to Olson, the tactical team had mistaken Moreno and Putnam's house for that of a neighbor's home -- where the fugitive they wanted was allegedly staying.
"I went inside to get my identification and I heard a pop," Putnam said. "I looked out the door to the back yard and there was an officer with his arm raised and a gun in his hand. I immediately realized Clohe had gone outside."
Jimmy Armstrong, a neighbor who witnessed the shooting, wrote in a signed affidavit that he saw Clohe enter the backyard. He said she was not attacking or threatening any of the officers.
"[Hughes] shot Clohe for no reason at all," Armstrong wrote in the affidavit, according to the lawsuit.
Hughes allegedly fired a second shot, which missed Clohe, prompting Putnam to place herself in harm's way -- between the officer and her now injured pet.
"I was yelling at him," said Putnam. "I said, 'Why are you shooting my dog? What are you doing? You're at the wrong house.'"
During the exchange, Clohe made her way back inside the house, leaving a trail of blood in her wake.
"I followed the blood trail into the bedroom, where my partner was cradling Clohe and crying hysterically," Putnam said.
According to the lawsuit, a Michigan state trooper told Moreno and Putnam, "We'll take care of this" and urged them to get their wounded pet to a veterinary clinic.
CASE PHOTOS: (Story Continues Below)
The couple was turned away by the first clinic they visited because they did not have cash on hand to pay for treatment up front. The second clinic they visited did not have a veterinarian on site to look at the dog. However, an employee there not only directed them to a neighboring clinic that would help, but also gave the cash-strapped couple money for gas to get there.
"On the way there a state trooper pulled us over," Putnam said. "By now we were all covered in blood. She asked what happened and I gave her a 30-second run down. She then escorted us all the way to the veterinary hospital."
The couple's neighbors later informed them that authorities had spent about an hour outside their residence while they were gone, taking photos related to the shooting. The search for the fugitive, Olson said, had become secondary to Clohe's shooting.
"They didn't go next door to get the guy after the shooting," Olson said, citing police documents he claims to have obtained. "It was not until three hours later that they raided the right house."
The attorney added, "What this tells me is it was not very much of an emergency to get that guy. In fact, they didn't even get him until a month or so later -- after I filed my [Freedom of Information Act] requests."
Prior to seeking legal representation, Putnam said she and her partner placed multiple calls to the officers involved in the incident and none of them were returned.
Michigan State Police did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost on Wednesday.
Russ Marlan, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections, declined to discuss the case.
"We cannot comment on pending litigation," Marlan wrote in an email to HuffPost.
The silence on behalf of the authorities has only added salt to the wounds, according to Putnam.
"They should not have been in our backyard," she said. "Clohe did not charge them or anything. She is old. She has a hard time getting on our couch as it is and she hobbles down the steps when she goes outside. She does not run or charge."
Olson said he is hoping the lawsuit, which is not his first involving police shooting a dog, will help bring about change in the way authorities react to family pets.
"We certainly want to address this case, but we also want to be an agent for change," he said. "That is what we're trying to accomplish."
In July, Olson filed a similar lawsuit against authorities in St. Clair Shores, a suburban city that borders Lake St. Clair in Macomb County. In that case, he is representing a woman whose dog was fatally shot by police officers. Olson said the evidence in that case suggests that shooting was premeditated.
"It was right when [The Huffington Post] was breaking that story that I received a call from Moreno," Olson said. "My first reaction was, 'Wow that sounds familiar.' I was amazed because it was literally within one day of that story breaking."
The lawsuit for Clohe is seeking unspecified punitive damages and attorney's fees "in a fair and reasonable" amount. A date for the lawsuit has not been set.
"Clohe is a member of our family -- one of our kids," Putnam said. "The officer was completely out of line and they are totally negligent."
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