A Missouri woman is suing St. Louis County police over charges that they illegally killed her dog during a police raid of her home.
Angela Zorich is seeking damages from St. Louis County and two officers, over the raid that took place on April 29, 2014. According to the Riverfront Times, police officers came to the house on April 25. After inspecting the outside of the building, they placed a “problem properties” sticker on it.
On April 28, Zorich called the police to ask about the visit. She was told that the property was being inspected to see if it had gas and electric service. Zorich allegedly told them that she had electricity, but no gas.
Just past lunch time on April 29, Zorich was home with several family members when officers from the St. Louis County tactical (or SWAT) team burst through the door without knocking. The lawsuit alleges that one officer immediately shot the family’s four-year-old pit bull, Kiya, three times before the dog could even bark. The suit states that the dog lay on the floor, dying while struggling for breath in a puddle of its own blood. At one point, the suit claims, one officer told Zorich’s son, “One word, motherf***er, and I’ll put three in you.”
Zorich was taken into custody. When she was released, and returned home, she says she found items that had been thrown on the floor, and beds overturned. She was cited for various property code violations.
Was this the police’s way to rid themselves of a nuisance?
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in a June 6 report, offers what they suggest is the rest of the story regarding the police raid on Angela Zorich’s home. Far from vindicating police actions, the story actually highlights what may be a highly questionable use of police force in this case.
According to the Post-Dispatch, neighbors tell the story of a family that had repeated loud arguments, whose dogs intimidated others in the neighborhood, and who were routinely visited by police. One neighbor, Mary Fran Pereira, told the paper, “I am so glad they are gone. They are a plague. I wouldn’t wish them on anybody.”
The picture painted by the Post-Dispatch suggests that by the time of the April, 2014 raid, St. Louis County police were sick of dealing with the Zorich family. Police were constantly responding to neighbors’ complaints, yet they couldn’t get any charges of real substance against the Zoriches. So they literally intimidated them out of their home. The heavy-handed way that police “inspected” the property for simple code violations suggests that this may be an accurate assessment of what they were trying to do. A county police spokesman, Sgt. Brian Schellman, said that the SWAT team is only used to serve warrants, or to deal with barricaded subjects. Neither of those things appears to apply to this incident.
If getting the Zorich family to move was the police objective, they were successful. The home has now been vacant since summer of 2014. Neighbors say that the family moved back in about a month after the raid, only to leave in the middle of the night. Sheriff’s deputies changed the locks on the house, which had been foreclosed upon in 2013.
Is this the answer to dealing with a situation such as this? While the outcome appears to be satisfactory to neighbors, the legality of the process in this instance seems questionable, at best.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons