On June 15, 2010, Marietta Robinson claims Metropolitan Police Department officers shot and killed her dog, Wrinkles, without cause during a search of her home in northwest Washington.
In a lawsuit (PDF) filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Robinson is suing the city and the officers allegedly involved for more than $1.5 million. She's being represented by a pro bono team from the Washington office of Sidley Austin.
“We thought she had a claim,” said Rebecca Troth, a pro bono counsel at the firm. “We thought it was a terribly sad situation. She was terribly upset by it.”
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.
According to the complaint, nine police officers arrived to search Robinson’s house in connection with “suspected criminal activity” involving her grandson. Robinson put Wrinkles, a 13-year-old mixed breed weighing about 62 pounds, in the first floor bathroom so she would stay out of the officers’ way.
One of the officers allegedly opened the bathroom door and fired her gun at Wrinkles at least once. As the officer walked out, the dog tried to bite her boot, according to the complaint, leading the officer to shoot the dog again. Two other officers are accused of also shooting Wrinkles, as Robinson yelled at them to stop.
Robinson identified at least 12 bullet holes around her home following the shooting, according to the complaint.
In the complaint, Robinson accused the city and the police department of crafting a firearm discharge policy that “does not strongly discourage” shooting domestic animals. She is suing the individual officers for violating her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, as well as the city for maintaining a police policy that she alleged fails to protect domestic animals and their owners.
Besides the constitutional claims, Robinson is suing for common law assault, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She is seeking compensatory damages from all of the defendants, and $1.5 million in punitive damages - $900,000 from the three officers accused of shooting Wrinkles, and $600,000 from the other officers on the scene.
Sidley Austin associate Jonathan Adams, who is also representing Robinson, said that litigation over animal shootings is “a recent development in the District.” A similar case cited in the complaint against the city, Morauw v. Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, settled on Friday. “Hopefully, as things go forward, there will be precedent developing,” Adams said.