ML dog shooting case reverses

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CBH Columbia Basin Herald Local News

SEATTLE - A lawsuit surrounding the 2010 dog shooting by a Grant County sheriff's deputy will return to federal court.

In April 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko dismissed Nicholas Criscuolo's lawsuit against Grant County, according to a previous Columbia Basin Herald article.

Criscuolo was at Neppel Landing Park in January 2010 with his dog, Slyder, and another dog. Deputy Beau Lamens then arrived at the park with a drug-detection dog, Maddox, to assist in an arrest, according to the article.

Slyder ran up to Maddox, and the two dogs began fighting. Lamens kicked Slyder in an attempt to separate the dogs, then shot Slyder, according to the article.

In his lawsuit, Criscuolo claimed Lamens violated his Fourth Amendment rights by shooting Slyder. Suko dismissed the lawsuit, ruling the shooting was reasonable.

According to Suko's decision, "The court must conclude the governmental interest (protecting Maddox) constitutes the prevailing interest in this case."

Criscuolo and his attorney Adam Karp appealed the decision, taking the matter to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year. Judges issued a decision last week, reversing part of Judge Suko's ruling.

Judges found the district court erred in determining Lamens' killing of Slyder was objectively reasonable, according to court documents.

"Viewing the totality of the circumstances in the light most favorable to Criscuolo...the killing was not reasonably necessary to protect the safety of Maddox, the police dog," read the decision.

According to the decision, Slyder posed no imminent threat to Maddox, even though the events occurred rapidly.

Criscuolo and other witnesses claimed that right before Lamens fired, Slyder was not springing toward Maddox, but was instead stationary or retreating at a distance of 10 to 20 feet from Lamens and Maddox. Criscuolo was also one to two feet away and about to leash Slyder, according to the decision.

"A reasonable jury could conclude that Lamens did not need to make any 'split-second decision' to protect Maddox," read the decision.

A new trial date has not been set yet, Karp said.

Attorney Jerry Moberg, who represents the county, said the Court of Appeals didn't rule that Lamens' actions were reasonable or unreasonable. Instead, they ruled that it was really up to a jury to decide, he said.

"All the court really said was that it may be a question of fact for the jury to decide whether the officer's actions were reasonable under the circumstances," Moberg said.

Moberg said he is confident a jury will conclude Lamens' actions were reasonable after hearing the facts.

"With the judge (Suko) determining in his view that the officer acted in a reasonable fashion, I believe a jury will too," he said.

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