Jury Awards Damages for Dog Killed by Police

A federal jury has awarded the Russell family, Thomas and Darcel and their sons, Thomas III and Darren $330,000 in damages.

On February 27, 2009, eighteen year-old Thomas Russell III and his brother, sixteen year-old Darren Russell, were at home in their second-floor apartment with their nine-year old dog, Lady. Lady had been part of the family all of her life.

That night Chicago police officers executing a search warrant for illegal drugs knocked on the door and here is what happened:

Thomas opened the door to the officers and asked if he could put away his dog, who was very friendly and who would be coming into the front room at any moment.

Officer Katalinic responded by putting a gun to Thomas’ head, pushing Thomas to the floor, and handcuffing him.

The Russells’ dog, Lady, came into the front room with her tail wagging. Without hesitation, Officer Antonsen shot Lady in the head.

 Lady, who had been part of the Russell family since she was a puppy, was instantly killed.

When Darren-who had heard a gunshot, commotion and his brother crying-came out of his room, Defendants pointed a gun at his head and handcuffed him even though he had done nothing wrong.

Thomas was charged with obstruction of service of process but the charge was resolved in his favor. No drugs were ever found in the Russells’ apartment.

The Russells brought this civil action against the city of Chicago and the police officers involved under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, a Civil War era statute that still offers a remedy when there has been a deprivation of liberty or property without due process of law. 

In this case the Russells’ action under Sec. 1983 was for use of excessive force, false arrest, illegal search, illegal seizure of property for killing Lady, and failure of other officers to intervene. They also pursued state law claims for  malicious prosecution, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The verdict included $2,000 for punitive damages for the shooting of Lady. The jury award otherwise clearly reflected the emotional damage to the plaintiffs, Thomas and Darren Russell, as a result of this entire fiasco and including Lady’s horrific death.