Over a decade after two police sergeants shot and killed a pet dog while investigating a false tip, the city of Hartford, Connecticut, has agreed to pay $885,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the innocent family who lost their dog’s life. Besides blindly following a false lead, the police sergeants also failed to obtain a search warrant before investigating the family’s property.
On December 20, 2006, Hartford police Sgts. Johnmichael O’Hare and Anthony Pia received a false tip from an apprehended gang leader that a cache of guns had been hidden inside an abandoned car at 297 Enfield St. Instead of acquiring a search warrant, the police sergeants immediately drove to the address in order to secure the guns, but there was no abandoned car at the location.
As the officers searched the property with their guns drawn, Glen Harris’ daughter returned home from school and arrived at the back of the house. When she opened the back door, one of the family’s St. Bernards named “Seven” ran outside and reportedly began chasing the cops around the other side of the building.
According to court documents, Sgt. O’Hare fired his gun twice, killing the pet dog in front of Harris’ daughter. Besides the officers’ police-issued firearms, no other weapons were found at the scene.
Due to the fact that his daughter became emotionally traumatized and suicidal after witnessing the officers kill her favorite pet, Harris filed a lawsuit against the police sergeants and the city of Hartford for violating his family’s constitutional rights. During the first trial in 2012, the jury absolved O’Hare and Pia after U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny determined that the officers did not require a search warrant because they were conducting an investigation under emergency circumstances.
Two years later, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Chatigny’s decision inaccurate and determined that the police sergeants had been required to obtain a search warrant before searching the innocent family’s property on a bad tip. Although the second jury awarded Harris and his daughter $202,000 in damages and imposed punitive damages against O’Hare and Pia, Chatigny and the appellate court wanted to strike the punitive damages from the decision.
On Monday, the city of Hartford agreed to pay an $885,000 settlement to Harris and his daughter for both damages and a decade of legal costs. The settlement also reportedly indemnifies the officers responsible for killing their dog.