Jury Awards Big Damages for Puppycide

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Seems that Marylanders are getting a bit fed up with this problem.

A Frederick County Circuit Court jury in the civil case filed by a Taneytown couple whose dog was shot by a sheriff’s deputy found in favor of the plaintiffs Monday evening.

The six-person panel deliberated for more than 4 1/2 hours before returning a verdict to award Roger and Sandi Jenkins $620,000 in damages, according to plaintiff’s attorney Rebekah Lusk.

They found that–Deputy First Class Timothy Brooks violated the Jenkinses rights under the Maryland constitution when he shot their chocolate Labrador retriever, Brandi, on Jan. 9, 2010, while he and Deputy First Class Nathan Rector were at their Bullfrog Road home looking for their son, who was wanted on a civil warrant called a body attachment.

The jury also found that Brooks and Rector violated the couple’s rights by entering their home without permission.

The defense was . . . interesting.

[Defense attorneys] focused much of their attention on the actions of Roger Jenkins, who they said was largely responsible for the shooting of his dog. They said Jenkins could have told the deputies that his son wasn’t home, because he hadn’t lived there in several months since being kicked out, and that he could have taken more action to secure the dogs.

“He made certain decisions that led us to this sorry state,” Karp said of Roger Jenkins.

But Hansel said the Jenkinses knew their son sometimes sneaked back in the house, and that Roger Jenkins was being honest when he told them he wasn’t sure if his son was home.

Hansel said that by suggesting that Roger Jenkins’ actions led to the shooting of his dog, the defense was implying that citizens should fear for the safety of their dogs around law enforcement.

“What they’re suggesting is that Mr. Jenkins should have known that police officers will gun down your dog,” Hansel said.

Well on that question, the defense might have a point.

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28 Responses to “Jury Awards Big Damages for Puppycide”

  1. #1 |  Chris Rhodes | 

    That is an insane award amount.

    Good for them; I hope the judge allows it.

  2. #2 |  shg | 

    What’s the over/under on an award of more than $25k being sustained? Or am I being too generous?

  3. #3 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    “Seems that Marylanders are getting a bit fed up with this problem.”

    Yeah, but unfortunately they’re the same ones who will be footing the bill for this award. Until out-of-control cops are held PERSONALLY accountable for their misdeeds –– in both civil and criminal court –– absolutely nothing will change.

  4. #4 |  el coronado | 

    It could be $6 million or $600 million. The amount doesn’t mean shit, and the cops will laugh at it and continue doing things just the way they like to.

    Wash rinse repeat, endlessly, until the individual cop is held personally liable for his actions. But maybe I’m wrong. Let’s see if Balko runs out of ‘puppycide’ stories to post in the weeks & months ahead. I rather think he won’t.

  5. #5 |  Sean | 

    This is nice, but it seems like more often than not these suits get dismissed. Like the other infamous Maryland case where a town’s mayor had his labs gunned down (one while it was running away down the street) — if I remember right his federal suit was thrown out by a judge who had some connection to someone on the police force. That was probably one of the worst cases of “puppycide” ever, and they will get no justice at all.

  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    While the cops arent personally liable for the $, as a MD resident I am glad to see that the courts are finding that the cops are responsible. Its a step in the right direction. 620K is going to hurt, and the local govt might take more interest.

  7. #7 |  SJE | 

    At least the PET owners arent the only ones bearing all the loss. Finding the cops immune from prosecution means that the owners lose their pet, and then screwed by the state.

  8. #8 |  Jesse | 

    Good for these plaintiffs, hope the decision is upheld. However, the only way these decisions will ever affect the behavior of cops is when the financial strain gets to the point that police are being laid off due to these lawsuits. Meaning we need many, many more of them filed.

  9. #9 |  Mario | 

    But Hansel said the Jenkinses knew their son sometimes sneaked back in the house, and that Roger Jenkins was being honest when he told them he wasn’t sure if his son was home.

    Had Mr. Jenkins told the officers his son wasn’t home and honestly had been mistaken about that fact, I’m pretty sure the D.A.’s office would be prosecuting him for “lying” to the police.

  10. #10 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Sounds like a case of heroic lawyering.

  11. #11 |  AlgerHiss | 

    Mayhaps this has been covered before, but….the utility worker….the phone guy….the FedEx person….the cable guy…..these people come in contact with people’s dogs at a far higher rate than cops.

    And, when was the last time they blew away Phideaux?

  12. #12 |  Mannie | 

    the Jenkinses knew their son sometimes sneaked back in the house, and that Roger Jenkins was being honest when he told them he wasn’t sure if his son was home.

    That would have been the only sane thing to say, since the police would certainly have persecuted [sic] if Jenkins had been mistaken. Never say anything substantive to the cops.

  13. #13 |  Jerryskids | 

    Mayhaps this has been covered before, but….the utility worker….the phone guy….the FedEx person….the cable guy…..these people come in contact with people’s dogs at a far higher rate than cops.

    And, when was the last time they blew away Phideaux?</i?

    Dogs can sense the difference between "Good Man" and "Bad Man". They will defend their territory against a "Bad Man".

    FWIW – I have done HVAC service work for many years and only had a problem with a dog 3 times. One was one I didn't realize until I got between her and her master that she was about 20 years old and blind and deaf and couldn't smell. She didn't know I was there until I practically stepped on her. The second was one where the owner was yelling at the dog to stop barking at me and trapped the dog between me and himself even as I kept trying to tell him it was okay, the dog wasn't going to attack me. That was an ignorant dog owner. The third one was the funniest – I had to charge up a new unit after the homeowner moved in and had the power turned on. Nobody was home when I got there but since I could charge the unit from outside, I went ahead and did so while their Doberman spent the whole time snarling and yapping at me but only from a safe distance so I knew he was no threat. It wasn't until after I wrote them a note to let them know I had been there and walked around the house to stick it on the front door that I saw the sign by the driveway "Warning – Trained Attack Dog – Do Not Exit Your Vehicle". The homeowners were pretty pissed at that dog.

  14. #14 |  derfel cadarn | 

    The real issue here is that the taxpayers will foot the bill. According to testimony the taxpayers were not involved in the shooting. It is deputies Moe and Larry that caused the loss yet they will receive no sanction. Both of these stooges should be fired for reckless endangerment and their law enforcement accreditation be revoked.

  15. #15 |  marco73 | 

    The jury found the deputy’s actions “grossly negligent” and “malicious.” They should have also added “stupid” and “reckless.”

    The deputy/shooter’s own testimony certainly sounded like this guy should never carry a gun again. He only had a “split second” before killing the dog.
    He doesn’t know if there are any other people near the dog, he just blazes away.

    From the article, the Sheriff states that insurance will pay the verdict amount.

    The Sheriff’s last line is the best: “These guys were just doing their jobs.”

    Translation: any resident of Maryland, if the cops come to your door, be prepared for them to shoot the dogs and ask questions later.

  16. #16 |  CyniCAl | 

    I found the answer to everyone’s question right on the Frederick News Post website.

    http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/news/display.htm?StoryID=133907

    The answer is: business as usual.

    Congratulations to all Agitatortots who guessed the correct answer.

  17. #17 |  CyniCAl | 

    Here’s a more cheery story of a local dog being saved from a fire:

    http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/news/display_Comments.htm?section=a1&storyID=133959#postComments

    One of the comments reads: “Just by the headline of the article, you knew it wasn’t going to be Deputy Timothy Brooks.”

    Bazinga!!! That’s gonna leave a mark.

  18. #18 |  LJB | 

    They should enact a law that in suits like this, the awards comes out of the police force’s budget; that would make them sit up and take notice!

  19. #19 |  LJB | 

    They should enact a law that in suits like this, the award for damages comes out of the police force’s budget; that would make them sit up and take notice!

  20. #20 |  The Late Andy Rooney | 

    @16

    According to the linked article, a Michael Vick Philadelphia Eagles jersey was among the items seized from the house. Even in souvenir form, his presence doesn’t seem to bode well for dogs.

  21. #21 |  CyniCAl | 

    @#20, your comment is funnier if I read it in Andy Rooney’s voice.

    @#19, the penalty should be: shoot a dog, the owner gets your armored personnel carrier.

  22. #22 |  Jamessir Bensonmum | 

    Comment #12 is right. Just don’t answer questions. The cowards involved in this shooting make me sick. These same types of law “men” are the ones who pepper spray and taser people who are handcuffed, hogtied, or strapped down in those damn chairs.

    About taxpayers footing the bill – they should foot the bill. If they are idly sitting by while their civil servants go around violating the rights of others then let ‘em pay. Maybe eventually society will get fed up with this crap.

  23. #23 |  Classical Values » “police officers will gun down your dog” | 

    […] When police in Taneytown, Maryland came to a house to search for a man who wasn’t there, they shot the family dog owned by the man’s parents. Awarding the couple $620,000, the jury found that the police […]

  24. #24 |  johnl | 

    22 is right. It’s the taxpayers who are the real villans here.

  25. #25 |  DavidST | 

    For those saying this won’t have an affect because no one is going to miss 620 K from the budget, you’re insane and don’t know anything about budgets, particularly now as budgets are stretched thin in most places. There will be an immediate review initiated from the top on how to make sure this kind of lawsuit doesn’t happen again. Cops that shoot dogs except as a last resort will get into shit for it… maybe not nearly as much as they deserve, but there will be pressure for things to change in that locality at least. From there it will spread. More lawsuits are needed in other places to speed things along.

  26. #26 |  Goober | 

    I wonder if I can go trespass on someone’s property, shoot their dog, and get away with it.

    No?

    Huh. Imagine that.

  27. #27 |  varmintito | 

    This is a rare instance of the system working properly. The victims get vindication, and the award is big enough that it might result in badly needed policy changes.

  28. #28 |  fwb | 

    Eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth.

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